Can I name beneficiaries for a CD account?

By Sabrina Karl

Planning for how your estate will be handled upon your death may seem a daunting task, with many things to consider. Fortunately, however, the process for designating heirs for any certificates of deposit you hold can be very quick and simple.


For the vast majority of bank and credit union CDs, you can complete a form that provides “payable-on-death”, or POD, instructions. Here you can designate one or more beneficiaries who will inherit your CD account upon your death. They won’t have any access to the account while you’re alive, and need not even know they’ve been named a beneficiary.


The significant benefit of specifying a POD beneficiary is that it allows this account to be transferred upon your death outside of any probate process. So rather than be handled by the courts, POD accounts can transfer simply by the beneficiary presenting identification and a death certificate to the financial institution.


Completing this form is generally very easy. If your bank has a solid online platform, you may find the printable form on its website, or even be able to complete the POD instructions electronically online. At a minimum, any bank or credit union will be able to mail you the form.


One potential sticking point in quickly completing a POD form is that it may ask for the beneficiary’s social security number. Financial institutions vary on this, so you’ll need to see what yours requests. Also, even if the form requests it, you can call the institution to inquire whether it is mandatory to provide.


Note that if your CD is held in a joint account — for instance with your spouse — naming them as a beneficiary is unnecessary. Upon death of one joint account holder, the other named individual automatically becomes the sole owner.