First of I am very sorry that you lost your husband. I know that is very hard.
In order for you to claim his 401k account you should contact the customer service number found on a recent 401k statement. The customer service department or the company HR department can help. They will first check to see if your husband designated you as the beneficiary on his account. If he did not complete the paperwork then they will check the plan document to see what it says regarding who can claim the account of a deceased participant. The plan document will almost certainly list the spouse as the first in line to claim the account. If there is no beneficiary designation on file and the plan document is silent on how decedent accounts pass then it’ll be up to the laws in your state.
Once it is determined that you can claim the account you will have to complete a Distribution form and provide a death certificate.
As a spouse beneficiary of a 401k account you have some options regarding what to do with his account. The three main options are a) leave it where it is, b) roll it into an IRA in your name and c) cash it in. There are pros and cons of each of these options. If you are unsure how to handle the distribution of his account you should consider speaking with a tax professional.
Hope this helps.
Hi there thanks for reaching out. Sorry to hear of your loss. You need to contact the human resources department of the former employer or the investment provider of the 401(k) plan. Do you still receive statements or know how to contacts these entities?
Hello Mary, you have my condolences. The way to get the 401(k) has been outlined very well by John and Brian. However, this is one piece of a larger financial situation. Whenever you have a life changing event, it is an excellent time to assess your current financial situation and plan. There are three key things you need to review. First, you need to process your husband's estate. This involves changing ownership of assets if necessary, paying final expenses, notifying banks and government agencies of the change in your situation. This is just a quick list. There are a lot more things you need to do. Your needs can best be answered by an attorney who specializes in estate planning. From my experience those who try to get this done by themselves, usually end up taking longer and are more frustrated with the process. I would recommend you try to find an attorney that charges by the hour instead of a percentage of the estate. Second, you need to determine your current financial position. What is your income, assets, debts, cash reserve? Is there life insurance to be gotten? A good financial advisor can help you take inventory, review your new needs, and help you determine how your financial picture looks. Third, you need to review your plans for when you pass away. Do beneficiaries need to be changed? What is the disposition of your assets? What sort of final arrangements do you want? Will there be any state or Federal taxes on your assets? How will you take care of a potential long term disabling illness that requires assistance or a nursing home? Here again a good financial advisor can help you review these and other issues and formulate a plan. You may also need to talk with an attorney and a tax professional about your final plans.
Finally, I usually recommend that you take no drastic actions for at least 6 months. This give you time to reflect on your new circumstances and make decisions from your head and your heart. Good luck in the future.