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

Related Topics:
1 Lawyer Answer
Jeffrey Louis Gaffney
Jeffrey Louis Gaffney
  • 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

Justia Ask a Lawyer is a forum for consumers to get answers to basic legal questions. Any information sent through Justia Ask a Lawyer is not secure and is done so on a non-confidential basis only.

The use of this website to ask questions or receive answers does not create an attorney–client relationship between you and Justia, or between you and any attorney who receives your information or responds to your questions, nor is it intended to create such a relationship. Additionally, no responses on this forum constitute legal advice, which must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case. You should not act upon information provided in Justia Ask a Lawyer without seeking professional counsel from an attorney admitted or authorized to practice in your jurisdiction. Justia assumes no responsibility to any person who relies on information contained on or received through this site and disclaims all liability in respect to such information.

Justia cannot guarantee that the information on this website (including any legal information provided by an attorney through this service) is accurate, complete, or up-to-date. While we intend to make every attempt to keep the information on this site current, the owners of and contributors to this site make no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information contained in or linked to from this site.