Views from the Bench: Beneficiaries, how they work

Judge Luann Cooperrider is Perry County's Probate/Juvenile Court Judge.


I come to you as your Perry County probate and juvenile judge where it is my honor to serve the good people of Perry County. I have chosen to write about beneficiaries in this article.

Do you often find certain things remind you of an image or something on your mind or in your past? When I smell homemade noodles it reminds me of my grandma Cooperrider. I immediately have an image of her in her kitchen with her apron around her. When I hear the song “Can’t You See” by the Marshall Tucker Band I immediately go back in time. This song reminds me of my friend Tina. We would always try to sing this song as we traveled on the hills of Old Somerset Road in my Falcon.

Often people will plan a vacation that involves flying or a long drive to a destination. This reminds them to make a will. To make a last will and testament and other types of documents you will need to designate beneficiaries.

What is a beneficiary? A beneficiary is a person or organization that will benefit when you leave assets to them. If you have a will you still need current beneficiaries on other things such as life insurance, your 401 (k) or certain IRA accounts. These type of accounts will pass to the person you name as a beneficiary regardless of what your will says. For example, you may give everything in your will to your husband, but your life insurance says your brother is the beneficiary; then your brother will receive your life insurance.

What is a primary beneficiary? A primary beneficiary is the first to receive the asset. If the primary beneficiary is deceased or declines the money, it will pass to a contingent beneficiary if you named one. If you did not name a beneficiary then the money will go into your estate.

If it has been awhile since you looked at your beneficiaries on your will, 401 (k) or your IRA it might be a good time to take another look. It is easy to change your beneficiaries and often if you reach out to financial companies they will send you a form. If you do not have a will now might be the time to make the appointment. Any lawyer would be able to help you prepare a will that would fit your needs.

As always it is my pleasure to bring you my Views from the Bench. For now “I’m going to take a freight train, down at the station!”

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