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Retirement Products

IRA versus Qualified Plan Beneficiary Rules 

By law, qualified plans, such as a 401(k)s, require the participant's spouse to be the designated 100% primary beneficiary.1 In order for a married 401(k) plan participant to name any other person as beneficiary, the spouse must waive his or her rights as beneficiary in writing, and most plans require that any spousal waiver be witnessed by a notary public. In addition, a new beneficiary must be named.

If the retirement plan is a defined benefit pension plan, a married participant's spouse is entitled to a minimum of a 50% survivor annuity upon the death of the participant. If the participant elects any additional forms of benefit, including a lump sum, at service separation, the participant’s spouse must consent in writing to this distribution.

IRAs have no such spousal consent rules applicable to them. An individual can name anyone he or she wants as a beneficiary. However, if the individual resides in a community-property state (Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, New Mexico, Nevada, Texas, Washington, or Wisconsin), the applicant generally must obtain his or her spouse's consent if the applicant has not designated his or her spouse as the primary beneficiary for at least half of the account.

Open an IRA

  1. Complete the writable IRA Application

  2. Print and send to Lord Abbett by mail, fax, email or use our Free FedEx shipping option

  3. You’ll receive a confirmation once your IRA is established

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