How to Get an IRA From a Deceased Parent With No Beneficiary

by Stephanie Ellen

An individual retirement account, or IRA, is a way to accumulate savings for retirement with significant tax breaks. A beneficiary is a person entitled to receive the funds from the IRA. A beneficiary clause is added to the paperwork indicating who should inherit the proceeds. If a parent dies without naming a beneficiary in the IRA paperwork, distribution of the proceeds can become complex. However, you may still be eligible to receive the proceeds.

1. Obtain a copy of the IRA agreement. If your parent did not leave a copy of the IRA agreement in their belongings, you may be able to get a copy of the agreement from the IRA plan administrator.

2. Check the last article in the IRA plan for a paragraph that states what happens to the funds if the participant dies without naming a beneficiary. Most IRA agreements will contain that clause. If the plan does not have a clause specifying a beneficiary, the IRA funds will be payable to the decedent's estate.

3. Get a copy of your parent's will. If the will leaves the estate to you, and the IRA agreement indicates the estate is the beneficiary of the plan, you will likely inherit the IRA along with the estate.


  • Inheritance from a will is not automatic. You may be required by your state to file a copy of the will with the court and seek proceeds from the will, or take additional steps to receive the proceeds.


  • If your parents did not leave a will and the IRA plan does not have a clause stating who should receive the funds, the IRA will go into probate. Probate law and the distribution of an estate or will can be a complicated area of the law and varies from state to state. If it isn't clear from the wording in the IRA agreement that you are the beneficiary, you should contact a lawyer for advice.

Items you will need

  • Copy of the IRA agreement
  • Copy of your parent's will

About the Author

Stephanie Ellen teaches mathematics and statistics at the university and college level. She coauthored a statistics textbook published by Houghton-Mifflin. She has been writing professionally since 2008. Ellen holds a Bachelor of Science in health science from State University New York, a master's degree in math education from Jacksonville University and a Master of Arts in creative writing from National University.

Photo Credits

  • Noel Hendrickson/Photodisc/Getty Images