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Barrister
Barrister, Attorney
Category: Estate Law
Satisfied Customers: 33702
Experience:  15 yrs estate law, real estate. Wills/Trusts/Probate
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My ex husband left me a Roth IRA and the company refuses to

Customer Question

my ex husband left me a Roth IRA and the company refuses to give it to me because we were divorced in Pennsylvania. I am the sole benefactor. Can the state of pa. over ride his last request and take the IRA from me. At the time of the divorce I lived in the state of Delaware.
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Estate Law
Expert:  Barrister replied 1 year ago.
Hello and welcome! My name is ***** ***** I will try my level best to help with your situation or get you to someone who can.
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Is there something in the specific IRA agreement that states that a divorce automatically revokes the beneficiary designation?
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And this is an IRA, not a 401K or pension plan, correct?
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thanks
Barrister
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Yes. It's a retirement fund he took out while we were married. There is nothing in their divorce decree about this ira. I was surprised to learn he left it to me.
Expert:  Barrister replied 1 year ago.
Ok, if this was an IRA that he set up himself and named you as a beneficiary, then that would automatically be revoked upon divorce if the designation was revocable at the time of his death. Since he could have changed that designation at any time, it would have been revocable.
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In this situation, the ex-spouse is treated as if he or she had predeceased the owner and the insurance policy or other account will go to the contingent beneficiary.
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The outcome is different if this is a 401K or company sponsored pension because they are governed by ERISA, a federal statue, which states that the beneficiary designation is not automatically revoked upon divorce.
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I am very sorry that I don’t have better news, but please understand that I do have an ethical and professional obligation to provide customers with legally correct answers based on my knowledge and experience, even when I know the answer doesn’t make the customer happy...
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thanks
Barrister
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
I didn't completely understand their redponse. He did not choose to revoke the ira.
Expert:  Barrister replied 1 year ago.
The law just states that if he COULD have revoked, then it would be automatically revoked upon the divorce being finalized. Since he was the owner of the IRA, he could have changed the beneficiary designation (i.e. revoked it) at any time up until his death.
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So if he had done something like an irrevocable designation, then it wouldn't be affected.
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The fact that he didn't actually revoke the beneficiary designation wouldn't affect the default provisions that automatically revoke it. If he had revoked the designation, then this wouldn't be a question we would be discussing right now..
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thanks
Barrister

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