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FAQs about Beneficiary Updates

Who can I name as a beneficiary?

You may name any person, trust, or entity as a beneficiary. If the account on which you are designating beneficiaries is a non-retirement account, you may also specify All Your Descendants . This page will open in a popup window. as your primary beneficiaries with equal share.

What is the difference between a primary and contingent beneficiary?

You select a primary beneficiary to receive a specified share of your account in the event of your death. A contingent beneficiary is an alternate person who receives the specified share of your account in the event that none of your primary beneficiaries survive you.

If you name several primary beneficiaries, and one dies before you, then that person's share is divided equally among the surviving primary beneficiaries (unless you indicate otherwise). If none of your primary beneficiaries survive you, then the share goes to the contingent beneficiaries specified. See also Legal Heirs . This page will open in a popup window. for additional information.

Do I have to name a contingent beneficiary?

You don't have to specify a contingent beneficiary, but naming both primary and contingent beneficiaries will help ensure that your assets pass to the individuals/entities . This page will open in a popup window. that you want them to go to.

How many beneficiaries can I add on an account?

You may add up to 50 primary and 50 contingent beneficiaries on an account, however a maximum of 8 primary and 8 contingent beneficiaries can be processed online. If you would like to add more than 8 primary or contingent beneficiaries, please download and complete a Beneficiary Designation Form.

What is a Transfer on Death Registration?

A TOD registration permits a non-retirement account owner to designate beneficiaries to receive the account through a nonprobate transfer after the account owner's death.

The registration is governed by the Fidelity Investments Designated Beneficiary Agreement (PDF) . This page will open in a popup window.. Transfer of Death registration allows your account to be distributed directly to the beneficiaries you designate.

Can a minor be named a beneficiary?

Yes, you can name a minor as a beneficiary. However, at the time of your death, if any of the named beneficiaries are minors, a guardian must hold and manage the money until the beneficiary reaches the age of account termination (typically age 18 or 21 depending on state law).

For specific legal implications regarding beneficiary designations, contact your legal advisor. Your right to designate a beneficiary is subject to applicable state law.

What happens to my account if I do not name a beneficiary?

If you do not designate any beneficiaries or all your primary and contingent beneficiaries predecease you, your surviving spouse generally becomes your beneficiary. If you do not have a surviving spouse, payment of your account is made to your estate. Please refer to the applicable legal agreements for an explanation of beneficiary payment rules for your account.

How often can I update my beneficiaries?

You can update your beneficiaries as often as you want.

How will I know my beneficiary changes have been processed?

The change generally goes into effect immediately, unless spousal consent or paperwork is required. If you have elected to receive account service email notifications, you may receive an email as soon as the changes have been processed depending on your account type. All customers will receive a revised account profile in the mail typically within 5 business days.

How does marital status affect my account?

A change in marital status may complicate your estate planning if you do not update your beneficiary designations.

For certain retirement savings plans, such as a Fidelity Retirement Plan (Self-Employed 401(k)/Keogh Account), federal law dictates that if you are married, your spouse must consent if you wish to designate someone other than your spouse as the primary beneficiary. In this instance, you must complete the Fidelity Retirement Plan Beneficiary Designation (Self-Employed 401(k)/Keogh) form (PDF) . This page will open in a popup window. and obtain the required signature before returning it to Fidelity.

For the purposes of beneficiary designation, you are not considered married if you are divorced or widowed. You may want to consult an attorney or applicable state law for clarification of your status.

What is Per Stirpes designation?

When you select Per Stirpes you specify that the share designated to that individual is passed to his/her children, in equal portions, if the individual dies before you do. If you do not select the Per Stirpes option, then the percentage that you have designated to a beneficiary who does not survive you is split equally among other named primary or contingent beneficiaries as applicable.

Can I use fractions or decimals when assigning percentages?

You may use up to two decimals to assign percentages (e.g., 33.34%). Remember, though, that the total must add up to 100%.

Are forms available to submit my beneficiary designations by mail?

You may establish or update beneficiaries on your Fidelity retirement accounts, brokerage non-retirement accounts, or annuity accounts by downloading and submitting a Beneficiary Designation Form.

How can updates to other personal information impact my beneficiary designation?

For your protection and to ensure account security, certain updates to personal information (e.g. Address Updates) may prevent you from making beneficiary updates online for a short period of time.