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Dwayne B.
Dwayne B., Attorney
Category: Estate Law
Satisfied Customers: 33405
Experience:  Estate Law Expert
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My uncle has recently passed away. He has a large amount of

Customer Question

My uncle has recently passed away. He has a large amount of money in his 401K account. It seems the named my aunt as his wife and he beneficiary of the funds. However, even though they have lived like a married couple for 15 years and own property together, they were never legally married hence there isn't a marriage certificate.
Is she still entitled to the funds and if so how does she claim them? If she is not, how do we make sure the appropriate next of kin claims the benefits? We just don't want to see his years of hard work and contribution lost.
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Estate Law
Expert:  Dwayne B. replied 2 years ago.
Hello and thank you for contacting us. This is Dwayne B. and I’m an expert here and looking forward to assisting you today. If at any point any of my answers aren’t clear please don’t hesitate to ask for clarification. Also, I can only answer the questions you specifically ask and based on the facts that you give so please be sure that you ask the questions you want to ask and provide all necessary facts. First, they won't be lost. Whether she gets the money or not depends on exactly how the designation was done and what state they lived in. If it is a state that recognizes common law marriage then the company may just require an affidavit from her stating they were common law married or it may not even require that. She can ask them for the forms necessary for her to make a claim on the account and then fill them out and turn them in. If she has any problems then the best thing to do is hire a local attorney to assist in filling them out, they'll know the tricky questions and how to answer them. Usually a set of forms and a copy of the death certificate is all that is needed. If she is turned down then have the attorney examine all of the paperwork from the company including the plan documents and the beneficiary designation and the attorney may be able to convince them to change their minds. If she doesn't qualify to collect them, and the chances are that she does in one way or another, then it goes to any secondary/alternate beneficiary that he designated. If there was no alternate beneficiary specifically named then the funds go to the "estate" and there would need to be a probate opened and they would pass according to the terms of his will or if there is no will then according to a specific set of heirs the order of which is designated by law in what is known as an intestate succession.
Expert:  Dwayne B. replied 2 years ago.
But the funds do not revert to the state or the company, some heirs will receive them and, again, it will most likely be her.