The party that the retirement account owner has identified on the beneficiary form that will inherit the retirement assets remaining in the retirement account after the owner’s death. Retirement plan service providers or plan administrators usually provide a ‘fill-in-the-blanks’ form that retirement account owners can use to designate a beneficiary. However, some will accept customized beneficiary designation forms instead. Retirement account owners who are interested in using a customized beneficiary designation form should consult with the plan administrator or IRA custodian/trustee to determine if they will allow the use of those forms, and whether there are any specific requirements that should be satisfied in order for the form to be ‘acceptable’.
Additional Helpful Information
Failure to designate a beneficiary may result in the beneficiary being determined under the retirement plan’s default beneficiary provision.
Retirement account owners usually have the option of designating primary beneficiaries and contingent beneficiaries. Contingent beneficiaries would inherit the assets only if the primary beneficiary(ies) predeceases the retirement account owner.
For qualified plans and ERISA 403(b) accounts, the spouse of a married participant must be the sole primary beneficiary, unless the spouse consent’s in writing for someone else to be designated as a primary beneficiary. For IRAs, spousal consent may also be required if the IRA owner lives in a community or marital property state.