Viki, There are several possibilities in this scenario. Consider seeing an attorney and/or a tax advisor soon. Before you meet with them, be sure you get the following documents.
-the will if there is one,
-the Plan Summary Description for the 401(k) plan as well as any documentation the 401(k) plan administrator will provide (including the documents which list the beneficiaries for the 401(k).
-get many certified copies of the death certificate, you will find you need these every time you turn around,
-divorce decrees or other papers that would effect inheritance rights,
An attorney can help secure the "Letters Testamentary" or "Letters of Administration" which may be required depending on the complexity of your brother's estate and the laws of your state. Your brother likely had a beneficiary for his 401(k). If the beneficiary is his wife she could roll it into a spousal IRA or Beneficiary IRA. If the beneficiary is someone else or his wife and someone else, than they could roll out their portions into Spousal and/or Beneficiary IRAs. Please consult a tax advisor prior to making any decisions concerning the distribution of the property, as a misstep could cost the beneficiaries unnecessarily.
Hi Viki, I'm sorry that you lost your brother. If you are the beneficiary on his 401k plan, you can contact the plan administrator, and they will probably send you a claim package that will give you several options on what you can do with the account, such as cashing it out, or rolling it into an IRA. There will be several options on what you can do, so I recommend talking to a financial planner and/or tax planner to figure out what option is best for you.
Dealing with money issues after a time of loss can be very difficult and frustrating. I've had this happen personally and with clients of mine. Please accept my condolences for your family's loss.
Hopefully, your brother put in place a plan so that you won't have too much frustration with the process.
Your brother's 401k will be controlled by who he listed as beneficiaries when he set up participation in the plan. If you are listed as the beneficiary, then contacting the plan administrator for a claim package will be the first step. Completing the documents and supplying the required identifying documents and death certificate will be the next steps.
Then you may direct the funds to be distributed (incurring a tax and early distribution penalty possibly) or transferred to a new inherited IRA.
There are a host of rules for calculating the distributions for inherited IRAs by non-spouse IRAs that you may want to speak with a tax or financial planner before next tax season.