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Financial Learning Center


The Nuts and Bolts of a 401(k) plan

Selecting a Beneficiary

When you enroll in a 401(k) plan, you'll need to identify a beneficiary in the event of your death. Here is a list of beneficiaries you might choose in the event of your death:

  • Spouse—the choice of most married couples. If you should die and your spouse is the primary beneficiary, he or she can roll the money from your 401(k) plan into a traditional IRA. This is available only to a spouse. There will be no tax due on the money (and earnings continue to build up tax-deferred) until a distribution from the spouse's IRA is made.

IMPORTANT NOTE: To name a beneficiary other than your spouse, you and your spouse will have to complete a beneficiary designation form. Your spouse's signature consenting to this must be notarized.

IMPORTANT NOTE: If your spouse is not a U.S. citizen, certain restrictions may apply.

  • Children—usually named as secondary beneficiaries (If the primary beneficiary dies, then the secondary beneficiary will inherit the money.)
  • Parents—the choice of most single people. But, if you are single and have a child, your child would likely be the first choice. Your decision may depend on the ages of your parents and your child.
  • Relatives—usually chosen if you have no other family members listed above.

IMPORTANT NOTE: It is recommended that you review your beneficiary selections periodically. Revisit your beneficiary selection when there is a change in your family status.

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