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When There's No IRA Beneficiary
Answer by Ken Golliher, BOL Guru

Question: We have an IRA question. What happens when an IRA owner passes away and there is no designated beneficiary on any of the forms. Is there a default provision? What if there is no specific language in the IRA agreement as to who it defaults to?

Answer: Most banks use IRA agreements developed by forms vendors. The IRA Plan used by vendors is generally based on an IRS form; e.g. Form 5305A. As the IRS generally considers ownership to be an issue of state law, the model language in there forms does not address survivorship issues. However, most forms vendors add an additional paragraph as the last article of the plan - it is that additional vendor-authored paragraph that may say what happens if the participant dies without effectively naming a beneficiary. Check there first. (Look at the one the customer signed, not the one you are using today.)

If the participant does not designate a beneficiary (or all the beneficiaries have predeceased her) and the plan does not specify a beneficiary, the funds are payable to the decedent's estate.

First published on 04/5/04

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