How to Update Your Beneficiaries

Keeping up-to-date beneficiary information on all of your accounts is easy to do and only takes a few minutes online. Most importantly, you can feel confident that your loved ones will receive the assets you intend for them to have.

Annuity customers, please complete these steps instead.

If you have a workplace plan, like a 401(k), that's serviced by Fidelity; log in to your NetBenefits®Log In Required account to make these updates.

Why is it important to name beneficiaries?

Watch this video to learn more about the process, including the information you should have before you get started and certain life events that may affect who you choose as a beneficiary.

What do I need to know?

Taking the time to choose your beneficiaries now can help your family avoid probate later. Please tell your family or friends if you've selected them as a beneficiary, because your beneficiaries must contact Fidelity themselves to receive their assets. We'll distribute your assets to your beneficiaries without requiring a will or other legal documents.

You'll need to assign at least one beneficiary for each account; most of the time you can add, change, or delete your beneficiaries online. To get started, please provide:

  • Beneficiary type (e.g., spouse, non-spouse, trust, entity)
  • Full name
  • Date of birth
  • Social Security number (optional)

You can also name contingent beneficiaries. Contingent beneficiaries receive your assets if there is no living primary beneficiary.

Note: Some retirement accounts or plans may require spousal consent (e.g., profit sharing, self-employed, 401(k), Keogh) before you can add or change the beneficiary.

If you do not see the account you want to update on the Beneficiary Summary page, and it’s not an annuity or a NetBenefits® account, you may have a workplace plan that's not serviced by Fidelity. To request changes, contact your plan's administrator or trustee.

What to expect

After you've updated your beneficiaries:

  • If you've updated online, and no additional consent or paperwork is needed, your changes will be effective in just a few minutes
  • When spousal consent is required, your beneficiaries will typically be updated within three business days after we receive the paperwork or email approval
  • You can track the status of your update in Your TransactionsLog In Required
  • You'll see your changes on the Beneficiary Summary page

Frequently asked questions

  • Who can I name as a beneficiary?

    You can name any person, trust, or entity as a beneficiary.

  • What's a primary beneficiary?

    A primary beneficiary receives a specified share of your account in the event of your death. You can name several primary beneficiaries, and if one dies before you, then that person's share is divided equally among the surviving primary beneficiaries (unless you indicate otherwise).

  • What's the difference between a primary and contingent beneficiary?

    A primary beneficiary (e.g., a spouse) receives your assets in the event of your death. Contingent beneficiaries (e.g., children) receive the assets if the primary beneficiary is deceased.

  • Why can't I update my beneficiary designations online after changing my address?

    For your protection and to ensure account security, certain updates to personal information, such as address changes, may prevent you from making beneficiary updates online for 10 business days.

  • Can I use fractions or decimals when assigning percentages?

    You can use up to two decimals to assign percentages (e.g., 33.34%). Remember, though, that the totals must add up to 100% for both your primary and contingent beneficiaries.

  • How do I update the beneficiary on my 529 college savings plan?

    What's different about a 529 plan is that your beneficiary is the person (student) you've opened the account for, not the person who'll handle the plan in the event of your death. On 529 accounts, this individual is called the successor participant.

    If you want to add or change your successor participant, please select Update Successor ParticipantLog In Required. If you have questions, see How to Add a Successor Participant on Your 529 College Savings Plan.

    If you want to change the student (beneficiary), you can do this online by visiting the 529 Plan Beneficiary ChangeLog In Required page.

  • What does a per stirpes designation mean?

    When you select per stirpes for a specific beneficiary and that person dies before you do, the percentage of assets they'd inherit is passed to their children, in equal portions. If you don't select per stirpes, and that beneficiary doesn't survive you, the percentage of assets they'd inherit is split equally among your other beneficiaries, as applicable.

  • Do I have to name a contingent beneficiary?

    No, you don't have to specify a contingent beneficiary, but naming both primary and contingent beneficiaries will help ensure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes.

  • How many beneficiaries can I add on an account?

    You can add up to 99 primary and 99 contingent beneficiaries on an account.

  • Why should I provide a Social Security number (SSN) for each of my beneficiaries?

    While you can add a beneficiary without providing their Social Security number (SSN) or tax identification number (TIN), it's in your best interest to include this number when you add a beneficiary. If we have the SSN or TIN on file, it helps us quickly identify your beneficiaries to ensure they get the assets you leave to them.

  • What's a transfer on death registration?

    For a nonretirement account, a transfer on death registration lets you designate beneficiaries to receive your account after your death through a simple transfer without going through probate. In a workplace retirement account, if there's no beneficiary designated, the assets pass according to the rules set out in the plan administrator's agreement.

  • Can I name beneficiaries on nonretirement assets with joint ownership?

    Yes, just as you can add beneficiaries to your individual nonretirement accounts, you can add beneficiaries on your joint accounts registered as either joint tenants with rights of survivorship or joint tenants in entirety.

  • Can a minor be named a beneficiary?

    Yes, you can name a minor as a beneficiary. However, if any of your named beneficiaries are still minors at the time of your death, a guardian must hold and manage the money until they reach the age of account termination (typically age 18 or 21, depending on the law in your state). 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 don't name a beneficiary?

    If you don't designate any beneficiaries—or if all your primary and contingent beneficiaries predecease you—your surviving spouse generally becomes your beneficiary. If you don't have a surviving spouse, then your account is paid to your estate.

  • How often can I update my beneficiaries?

    You can update your beneficiaries as often as you want.

  • How does marital status affect my account?

    If you have a change in marital status, be sure to update your beneficiary designations. You aren't considered married if you are divorced or widowed. If you're unsure, you may want to consult an attorney or applicable state law for clarification of your status.

    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, you can't designate anyone other than your spouse as the primary beneficiary without your spouse's consent. If you want to name a different beneficiary, we can guide you through the process. You'll need to complete the online form and have your spouse sign in the presence of a notary public before returning it to Fidelity.

  • How can I manage my beneficiaries?

    You can review and update the beneficiaries for all of your Fidelity accounts onlineLog In Required or by downloading the appropriate form from the Beneficiary Designation Forms page.