What to do if my uncle passed away suddenly with no Will and his late ex-wife is still liisted as beneficary on his IRA account?

UPDATED: Jun 1, 2013

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What to do if my uncle passed away suddenly with no Will and his late ex-wife is still liisted as beneficary on his IRA account?

My uncle had a IRA account with a wealth management company. He divorced his wife a year and a half ago and she passed away a few weeks before he did. She is listed as a beneficiary on this IRA account but has passed and in the divorce papers it says if spouse is listed as beneficiary they are voided at time of final divorce. The wealth management company is saying that the money would go to the beneficiary which was his ex-wife, who is no longer alive; her children are no relation or blood to my uncle. However, the company is not going by the divorce agreement papers. What can my mom do in this matter and why isn’t this wealth management company taking the divorce agreement?

Asked on June 1, 2013 under Estate Planning, North Carolina


M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

I am so sorry for your loss and for the problems that have ensued.  As hard as it may be to comprehend this, a divorce decree may not rule in determining the beneficiary or the IRA.  If the beneficiary designation remained in tact after the divorce she may indeed have been entitled to inherit the account.  That would depend not only on the document rules but your state law.  What I think may give you some leverage here is that she pre deceased him but you need to look at the policy itself and what it says if a beneficiary pre deceases the account holder.  It may be enough for you to try and settle with her estate - litigation is very time consuming and costly and probably neither estate would want to get embroiled in the courts. Think about it.  God luck.

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