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Estate Planning

Wealth Transfer Strategies

How to Pass On Your Assets

A woman and her child hugging.

No one likes to think about a time when they are no longer around for their family, but the reality is that planning ahead can save a lot of stress for your heirs at a difficult time. Having the right documents in place and ensuring that your assets will go to the right people can also give you a lot of peace of mind. Here’s what you should know.

What Wealth Transfer Strategies Are Helpful?

There are three common ways to set up the transfer of assets:

Beneficiary designations:

You can name individuals as the direct beneficiaries of your retirement or non-retirement accounts. This is typically the easiest way to transition your assets to loved ones when you're gone.


A will outlines how you want your assets to be distributed after your death. It may also name a person (an executor) whom you’d like to carry out your wishes. During the legal process for settling your estate—called probate—the court will appoint the authorized individual who will distribute your assets.


If you establish a trust, non-retirement assets can be held in a trust account registration, or you can name the trust as beneficiary of your retirement account. This may be helpful if your wishes are more complicated. For instance, if there are minor beneficiaries who need a trust to hold their assets to a certain age, or if you wish to place conditions on a person’s eligibility to receive any of your assets. The trust document defines the terms of the trust and names a trustee authorized to carry out the trust’s provisions.

Why Families Should (But Don't) Share Their Financial Plans

Maybe you've dotted all the "I's" and crossed all the "T's" when it comes to your finances. But if you haven’t had a frank conversation with family members about your financial plans and final wishes, you may leave them with questions none of you ever anticipated. Get tips on how to have that discussion.

What Are Some Frequent Wealth Transfer Mistakes?

Planning to transfer wealth to your heirs is a process. It’s important that you check in with your documents over time to make sure they’re still up to date. Here are some common missteps:

Failing to transfer assets to your trust.

Some people create a trust, but never change the ownership of their accounts to the trust. Simply having the trust agreement doesn’t mean your assets are now in that trust—you must change your account registrations.

Not updating your beneficiaries.

It’s important to check your beneficiaries every few years or whenever you have a big life event, such as a marriage, divorce, death, or the birth of a child. Your beneficiaries will need to be updated to reflect new family structures.

Not telling loved ones where your documents are.

When the trustee of a trust account passes away, a financial institution will need a copy of the trust document to determine the successor trustee(s). If that document can’t be located, a court order may be required.

What Helps Make the Process Smoother?

Even if your wealth transfer documents are in great shape, there are steps you can take to facilitate the process after you’re gone. Make a comprehensive list of all your financial accounts, real estate holdings, life insurance, safety deposit boxes, trust agreements, storage units, credit cards, vehicle loans, mortgages, and other supporting documents, and keep it in a central, but secure, location.

Having all the information in one place will make it easier to notify the appropriate sources and collect the information needed to distribute your assets according to your wishes. When you share your plans, let your family know where to find these documents.

Estate Planning

An estate plan can be an essential part of your finances, but many people don’t have one. Ultimately, it’s advisable to contact an estate planner, attorney or tax advisor for advice regarding your specific situation.

How Can We Help?

For your American Century Investments® accounts, we have a team of dedicated specialists who focus solely on estate transfers. When the time comes for your assets at our firm to be distributed, we are here to help by offering:

  • One-on-One Service:

     An Estate Transfer Consultant will be assigned to be the direct contact throughout the entire process.

  • Detailed Assistance:

     After discussing the specific situation, a customized packet of information that includes any forms or applications relevant to the account will be provided. The Estate Transfer Consultant will help complete the forms and assist with any questions.

  • Personal Investment Goal Setting:

     Major life events can change investing goals for heirs.

Need Help With Your Investments?

If you’re ready to discuss financial plans, we’re here to help.

This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as estate planning advice. Please consult an estate planner or attorney for advice regarding your situation.

This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as investment or tax advice.