A beneficiary is a person or organization designated to receive assets from an individual’s estate after their death. Assets may include property, investments, real estate, financial accounts, insurance payouts, and more. 

Designating beneficiaries allows an individual to specify their wishes for how their estate is distributed after their death. Typically, beneficiaries are named in legal documents like wills and trusts, or designated on retirement accounts, life insurance policies, and payable-on-death (POD) or transfer-on-death (TOD) accounts. 

Beneficiaries may include family members, charities, friends, organizations, or other entities. How the estate plan is structured determines whether beneficiaries receive assets outright or based on the terms of a trust. 

Reviewing beneficiary designations regularly is an important part of estate planning, as designations may need to change after a marriage, divorce, birth, death, or other life event.

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