Fair Oaks, CA asked in Estate Planning for California

Q: I have a question about the retirement account of a deceased spouse.

In 2001 I married xxx, and she took my name. She died of leukemia in 2005. She had no will, but also no significant property so whatever she had just came to me. From time to time over the years I’ve received mail addressed to xxx from the IBEW (she had been an electrician at one time before I married her). I opened the first couple and found them to be just meeting notes and announcements and I sent a couple back marked deceased, but mostly I just discarded them. This week I got another letter addressed to her from Fidelity Investments. It’s a Retirement Savings Statement, and it shows she had nearly $30, 000 in her account. I’m not sure what to do about this. I don’t know if I’m entitled to it. If not, who? I hate to think it’ll just sit there for years until it rolls into some lost funds account and ultimately just goes to Fidelity. Should I engage an attorney? What are the options and how should I proceed? Thx

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1 Lawyer Answer
Jeffrey Louis Gaffney
Jeffrey Louis Gaffney
PREMIUM
Answered
  • Estate Planning Lawyer
  • Carlsbad, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: First of all, tell Fidelity that she passed away. If it was a retirmenet account then there is a beneficiary named by her and Fidelity will want to send that person the money; no fuss, no muss. If that person is NOT YOU then you might want to get angry if the money was earned during your marriage, because you have a right to half of that money. Half of $30k is not big enough to hire an attorney to fight but you can try working it out yourself.

If the money was from before your marriage then it was hers to do what she wanted to with.

If there is NO beneficiary named on the IRA (very odd) then ask Fidelity what they want for paperwork, but you should be able to just follow the California Simplified Probate procedures to give Fidelity a notarized affidavit signed by the rightful heir; you can find instructions on the Probate Court's web site. Rightful heir would be whomever is named in the Will, then you and her kids.

James Edward Berge agrees with this answer

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