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How do I find out if I am a beneficiary on my deceased brothers 401k?

Nov 15, 2013 by becky from Oklahoma City, OK in  |  Flag
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I am sorry to hear that you lost your brother. To learn if you are the beneficiary on his 401(k) account you will have to contact the Plan Administrator or their designee. The place to start is to look for a phone number on one of his 401(k) Account Statements. If you do not have a statement then call the employer that sponsored the plan and ask for the Human Resource Department. You will want to ask for the “Claiming Procedure”. Each plan has a process for how they will distribute death benefits including any documentation that they will require.

If you are the beneficiary you will want to immediately contact a financial planner, tax preparer or CPA knowledgeable in distributions from retirement plan accounts. Distributions from 401(k) accounts require planning to minimize tax consequences and avoid penalties for missed required minimum distributions. Unfortunately this is a complicated area where professional guidance is necessary.

Hang in there.

Comment   |  Flag   |  Nov 15, 2013 from Woodbridge, VA

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Herbert N Glass Level 18

Hi Becky,

Your question is a good one and certainly simple for all to understand. However, depending on your brothers marital status at the time of his death, whether or not he filled out a Declaration of Beneficiary form or not before his death, and whether or not he had just a Will or a Will and Trust, are the determining facts that may play a role in determining who his beneficiary is.

The above may sound confusing so let me give you some information and suggestions that may help you find out if you are a beneficiary or not, of his 401(k) plan account money.

  1. If your brother ("he") filled out a Designation of Beneficiary form, presumably the 401(k) Plan Administrator, the Plan Trustee, and/or his Employer, should have a copy of the Beneficiary Form. In addition, he may have kept a copy with his other important personal papers. If you can, start by looking for his copy. If you are unable to find his copy in his personal papers or anywhere else, you should then contact either the Plan Administrator, Plan Trustee and ask them if they have a copy.

If any of these suggestions result in you seeing or hearing definitively that you are a beneficiary, or conversely learning that you are not a beneficiary, then you have your answer.

  1. If the above actions do not result in finding a copy of his Beneficiary Form, then the 401(k) Plan document most likely contains a provision that declares who his beneficiary will be. In such circumstances, the beneficiary most likely will not be you but rather it will be his spouse if he is married, and if he is not married, the provision will most likely indicate that his Beneficiary will be his Estate in which case his will or Trust will be the place to look for who his beneficiary will be. If there is no Will, then State laws will dictate who will be his beneficiary.

Becky, I hope the above answers your question. If you have any other questions, feel free to ask them here.


Herbie Glass Certified Pension Consultant MBA, CPC, CFP, ChFC, CFG, IAR, CLU Glass Retirement Strategies, Inc. www.Glassretirement.com

Comment   |  Flag   |  Nov 15, 2013 from Franklin, MI

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Becky the answers is :. You should star by contacting the company that actually is a record keeper of your brothers 401k account. More and more plan administrators are now delegating this service a way. If record keeper is in fact the holder of that information, they will request a death certificate and once they have it they will be able to tell you if you are or not the beneficiary. If they not then they will give you a name of the person to call at the HR office. It is a good idea to find a fee based planner to help you with that. Sorry off your loss. I hope this helps Sincerely Michael

Comment   |  Flag   |  Nov 16, 2013 from Farmington, CT

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