How Should I List Beneficiaries on a 401(k)?

by Catherine Chase

Listing the beneficiaries of your 401k in your will does not necessarily mean they will receive the benefits. Upon your death, your 401k will go to the beneficiaries listed on your plan's designation form, even if you indicate otherwise in your will. To ensure that your beneficiaries are up to date, review your designation form every year or so, as well as each time you update your will.

1. Request a beneficiary designation form from your 401k plan provider. This form is the same regardless of whether you are just enrolling in a 401k or changing the beneficiaries on an already existing 401k.

2. Provide all requested information on the form. This typically includes your name, contact information, date of birth and Social Security number.

3. List your primary beneficiary in the designated space. Provide his full name, date of birth and Social Security number. You may list only one primary beneficiary or several. Most beneficiary designation forms provide a space for percentages. For example, if you wish to divide your 401k equally amongst four primary beneficiaries, write 25 percent across from each of their names.

4. List your contingent beneficiaries. These beneficiaries will receive your 401k if the primary beneficiary is deceased. Provide the same information for all of your contingent beneficiaries. You may list one person or several people.

5. Provide additional information if you list a trust as a beneficiary. Write the trust's name, along with the name and address of the trustee. Indicate whether it is a revocable or irrevocable trust. Indicate whether it is a revocable trust that automatically becomes irrevocable upon your death.

6. Sign the form and date it. Return the form to your plan's administrator. (reference 1 pg 11)

Items you will need

  • Beneficiary designation form

Photo Credits