West Covina, CA asked in Estate Planning and Probate for California

Q: Hi...I live in California (LA County). My wife was the sole beneficiary on her older brother's 401k account.

Her brother died of Covid on January 19th. My wife then died of Covid 4 days later. What happens to the 401k account? Her brother had a daughter, but she wasn't listed as a beneficiary. Does the 401k pass to the daughter, or does it go to my wife's estate?

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2 Lawyer Answers
Jeffrey Louis Gaffney
Jeffrey Louis Gaffney
PREMIUM
Answered
  • Estate Planning Lawyer
  • Carlsbad, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: It should go to your wife's estate.

A Will or a Trust normally has provisions regarding this sort of situation, but unless the 401K administrator had the brother sign something unusual, then the money would still go to the estate of your wife. But check with the administrator.

James Edward Berge agrees with this answer

Julie King
Julie King
Answered
  • Estate Planning Lawyer
  • Monterey, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: In most cases, the money would go to your wife's estate, but it will depend on the terms of the 401(k) beneficiary designation and the terms of any trust or will. Some trusts say that a person must survive the principal (your brother-in-law) by a certain period of time or the gift will lapse, i.e., not be effective. In those cases, the money would likely go to a back up beneficiary (technically called a contingent beneficiary) your brother-in-law named, if any. I'm sorry I cannot respond without reading all the terms of all the documents in your case, but your best bet would be to start by contacting the administrator of the 401(k) plan. Best wishes.

James Edward Berge agrees with this answer

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