Retirement accounts, such as 401(k)s and IRAs, are often significant components of your financial portfolio. But do you know who will inherit these funds when you pass away? It’s a crucial aspect of estate planning that deserves attention. Here, we offer expert insight into how retirement accounts are handled after your death.

Designating Beneficiaries: Your First Step

The most critical factor in determining who receives the money from your retirement account is your beneficiary designation. This is a decision you make when you open the account and can update at any time.

Beneficiary Designations Override Wills

Unlike other assets that may be governed by your will, retirement accounts pass directly to the named beneficiaries, bypassing the probate process.

Importance of Keeping Designations Updated

Life changes such as marriage, divorce, or the birth of a child can affect your intended beneficiaries. Regularly reviewing and updating your beneficiary designations ensures that your retirement funds go to the right people.

Types of Retirement Accounts and Their Implications

What Happens When There Are No Designated Beneficiaries?

In cases where no beneficiary is named, or if all named beneficiaries predecease you, your retirement account may be distributed according to the plan’s default rules or become part of your probate estate, subject to the terms of your will.

Tax Considerations in Inheritance

Inheriting retirement accounts can have tax implications for beneficiaries. A trust and estates lawyer can help navigate these complexities to ensure that both estate and income taxes are minimized.

The Role of an Inheritance Lawyer

Consulting with an inheritance lawyer is invaluable in estate planning involving retirement accounts. They can assist in:

Getting Help with Your Financial Legacy

Your retirement accounts are an essential part of your legacy. Understanding and planning for how these funds will be distributed ensures that your wishes are honored and your beneficiaries are protected.

If you have additional questions about your retirement account beneficiaries or need to integrate these accounts into your estate plan, contact us for personalized assistance. We’ll help you navigate these decisions, ensuring your financial legacy is managed according to your wishes.

Contact us today for a comprehensive consultation and be sure to mention this article for a focused discussion on your specific needs.


This article is a service of Miller & Miller Law Group. We do not just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love.



There are many ways to “fund” a living trust. The important thing is to make sure that this process happens regularly as you acquire new assets so that the trust works as designed!