Where’s My Beneficiary Designation Form?

July 16, 2021

Where’s My Beneficiary Designation Form?

Many employees never name a beneficiary for their retirement accounts and why is this the case? Typically, this is because employers don’t take the time to follow-up on the forms since they think the recordkeeper or custodian that produced the form is taking care of this task.

Employers Plan Sponsors are usually also the plan trustee who is responsible for getting the money to the beneficiaries. Employers should have a consistent process of collecting beneficiary forms from their employees and keep the form in their personnel file. 

If you are married, your spouse is automatically the beneficiary of your account and this is the law.  If you want to name anyone other than your spouse, your spouse must sign a form allowing this change.

 It is still a good idea to name your spouse on the form and designate a contingent beneficiary. Where do you want your money to go if your spouse predeceases you or if you should die at the same time?

If you are not married, when you pass away the money will go equally to your children, and if you do not have children then the funds will be directed to your estate. If you do not want this result, you need to have a beneficiary designation form on file.

There are also a few other things to keep in mind. You do not want to name children under the age of 18 because they are not legally competent and cannot be paid retirement plan money. A court-appointed person (known as a conservator) will have to claim and manage the money until the minor turns 18 years of age. Again, this is a very good reason to create a family trust and it would be wise to involve your legal and financial advisers to determine what is best for your individual situation.

Naming your family trust is a common designation, but it may very well complicate the distribution if there are multiple people designated to receive the money through the trust.

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A new law was put into effect in December 2019 called the SECURE Act and it states if your money does not go to an “eligible designated beneficiary” (EDB), all the money must be distributed to the beneficiary by the end of tenth year.

Below are the people considered an EDB:

  • The owner’s surviving spouse
  • The owner’s child who is less than 18 years of age
  • A disabled individual
  • A chronically ill individual
  • Any other individual who is not more than 10 years younger than the deceased account holder

Prior to the SECURE Act being passed, people inheriting your retirement plan money could take the money over their lifetime. However, the government now wants your money sooner than later.

Beneficiary designations are an important part of you overall estate plan, so you want to make sure these forms are updated when your situation changes.

To learn more about beneficiary forms or best practices for maintaining and establishing a retirement plan and administering your plan, please contacted Benefit Equity Inc.’s experienced plan consultants at 714-480-1364, Ext 0 or email us at and we will get in touch wit you right away.

Author: Robert Gorelick, APA, Founder Benefit Equity Inc.