Retirement topics - Death of spouse


Most participants designate their spouse as their primary retirement plan beneficiary. Many plans require that the spouse is the primary beneficiary, unless the spouse gives written consent to an alternative beneficiary. A plan participant should review and possibly change his or her beneficiaries when his or her spouse dies.

To change beneficiaries, the participant should:

  • contact his or her employer or plan administrator to request change of beneficiary forms;
  • complete those forms in accordance with their instructions; and
  • submit the completed and signed forms to the employer or plan administrator.

Additional resources:

Publication 575, Pension and Annuity Income
Publication 590-B, Distributions from Individual Retirement Arrangements (IRAs)
A rollover chart PDF summarizing the rollover rules is provided as a general guide but should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional tax advice.