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Can I List a Beneficiary in a Will Without a Social Security Number?

Updated: Mar 27, 2023

Attorney Thomas B. Burton is joined by Attorney Matthew Underwood, of Underwood Legal, LLC in Madison, Wisconsin. Together, Attorney Burton and Underwood discuss and answer a reader's question about whether you can name a beneficiary in a Will if you don't have their Social Security Number.

Transcript of Video: Can I List a Beneficiary in a Will Without a Social Security Number?

Okay, welcome back today

I'm joined by my friend attorney

Matthew Underwood. Matt operates Underwood

Legal, LLC a boutique estate planning and elder

law firm in Madison Wisconsin and Matt thank

you for joining us today, thanks for having

me today Tom.

So Matt I have a good question for you that

just came in recently and here it is it's

from Fond du Lac Wisconsin and the writer

asks the following can I

list a beneficiary in a will without their

social security number?

Good question so can you list a beneficiary

in a will without a social security number

absolutely when we're naming a beneficiary

in a will that we you know, we have absolutely

need to be able to identify that person so

I'd recommend you know, a full legal name

with a middle initial even but I would encourage

you not to put a social security number in

a will and I would go as strong to say never

put a social security number in a will because

wills become public record once the person

making the will passes away so

Anything that you thought might have been

your private wishes that you put in your will

all of that becomes public when you pass away

so and the other thing is, you know, if

you put a beneficiary social security number

in the will and you pass away again that becomes

public record and now that beneficiary is

going to have to live with the fact that their

social security number is out in the public

record so we want to avoid that at all

costs now if you're working with a life insurance

company, you know a financial company and

you want to set up a beneficiary on one of


policies or one of your accounts oftentimes

the financial company will ask for the beneficiary

information including social security number

and usually that's okay because those beneficiary

forms aren't public record that's just a contract

that you have between yourself and the insurance

or financial company so that would be fine

so again, you can put that in a beneficiary

form if asked by the financial company, but

do not put a social security number in the

will so that's really you know, Tom and you

can chime in here, but that's where I would

have recommended people look at

trust planning because when we do trust planning

trust do not end up in in court at all trust

our private documents, so when people have

concerns about privacy, you know or asset

protection even that's where yeah really looking

at trust instead of wills but I don't know

your thoughts on that Tom.

Yeah exactly Matt that was a great answer.

I have never put a social security number

in a will just for that reason you don't want

that personally identifiable information on

your likely your loved one your heirs out

there after your Death because at that point

your dead so your social security number might

not be a problem, but their number being out

there would be a problem for them and again

all I do is the full legal name we just have

to be able to identify the heir in the will

and a full legal name is plenty.

I've never done a social security number and

I agree with Matt I would caution against

it and Matt I think your spot on with there's

maybe some confusion with life insurance companies

sometimes requests that that information on

their death benefit form social security number

but it is not a legal requirement in a will

and certainly not in the Wisconsin statutes

so go ahead and put your will together with

the help of an attorney and just use the full

legal name of that beneficiary you want to

name so I think that's a great question and

we wish you well with getting that set up.

Matt, thank you for joining us and for that

great answer.

Thank you Tom and thank you to the questioner

for the great question, that's all for today,

thanks for joining us and we'll see you next


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Transcript and captions provided for ease of access for the hearing impaired.

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