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Owners Only DC plan deceased with no designated beneficiary

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DC Plan, only participant was owner, spouse pre-deceased, no children, no beneficiary designation.

There is a will directing how the Estate is to be distributed.

Do the plan assets get paid to the estate, and then distributed accordingly?

Can any relatives (or even non-related beneficiaries) roll to IRA's? Any other tax advantaged methods of distribution available?

Thank you in advance for your help with this!


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What does the plan document say? if the plan is a preapproved document there would almost certainly be a section (perhaps in a basic plan document) that governs. 

But generally yes, it ends up being cashed out to the Estate, and then it goes to whoever takes the estate. It is not eligible for rollover to any inherited IRA in that circumstance. 

I'm a stranger on the internet. Nothing I write is tax or legal advice. 

I'd like a witty saying here, but I don't have any. When in doubt, what does the plan document say?

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A big issue is estate will almost always need to get an EIN and it might be the entity that pays taxes on the distribution.   The estate gets the 1099-R in its EIN for example.  This process can slow down paying the distribution while they get this all worked out.  If it causes the plan to be open another year it can cause plan fee to be higher. 


Whoever is in charge of the estate needs to hire the right tax people to help them.  The deceased didn't do anyone any favors by not having a beneficiary election and allowing it to go to the estate.  The extra legal, tax advisor fees plus possible extra taxes could be a real bummer.  

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As others say, a decision-maker might begin (and sometimes might finish) with RTFD—Read The Fabulous Document.

Beyond questions about which person or artificial person (perhaps including an estate) might be the decedent’s plan beneficiary, consider also:

Will a custodian seek some evidence that a person who submits the plan administrator’s or plan trustee’s instruction for a redemption or delivery of investments has a right or power under the custodianship agreement to instruct the custodian?

Peter Gulia PC

Fiduciary Guidance Counsel

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania



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Most people these days used pre-approved DC documents, which as advised above, will almost certainly have language dealing with this situation. I'd add that if there is one, you should carefully look at the Appendix to the Adoption Agreement, as this often contains overrides to the "boilerplate" language in the basic plan document for this (and other) provisions.

I speak from the embarrassing experience of occasionally forgetting to check the Appendix in the past - I'm much more careful now - the burned hand teaches best!

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