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How To Find Out If Deceased Had 401k

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How Do I Find Out About Deceased Fathers Accounts 401k Retirement

How to Find an Old 401(k)
  • Posted on Jan 17, 2012

In order to be considered your father’s heir, you are going to have to start some sort of heirship proceeding in North Carolina where at the end of the day, you are declared the sole heir of your father’s estate. Before even going to that expense, I would see what kind of assets he has. Some private investigators do this type of work. There used to be a web site.. that would search all the state’s unclaimed property databases for a specific name to see if something was being held. In any case you are going to want to talk to a local probate attorney and get some ideas on which way to head.

Hope this helps. If you think this post was helpful, please check the asnwer was a good answer tab below.Thanks.Mr. Geffen is licensed to practice law throughout the state of Texas with an office in Dallas. He is authorized to handle IRS matters throughout the United States and is licensed to practice in US Tax Court as well as The Court of Claims.This answer is provided as a public service and as a general response to a general question, it is not meant, and should not be relied upon as specific legal advice, nor does it create an attorney-client relationship.

How To Find A Copy Of A Lost Life Insurance Policy

It can take some digging, but the policy document will have all the information you need to file a life insurance claim, including:

  • Name and contact information of the insurer

  • Policy number

  • Name of beneficiary or beneficiaries

  • Death benefit amount

If you know youâre the beneficiary of a life insurance policy but donât have a copy of it, there are a few ways to find a lost policy:

Should You Hire A Finder Firm

The answer is usually no, but it might make sense in some situations.

Finder firms generally find you. For instance, you might receive a postcard from one promising to tell you about lost assets that are yours if you’ll pay a flat fee of, say, $14.95. If you send a check, you’ll probably receive a letter telling you how to search for unclaimed property using some of the websites described in this article.

“If you have to pay money to get money, it’s probably a scam,” says Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of the college-financing websites and He also maintains a website about locating unclaimed property, at

There are legitimate finder firms that get early access to information about assets that are on their way from banks and other institutions to state unclaimed property divisions. They’ll send you a letter saying they have information about unclaimed property that is yours and will help you claim the funds for a fee equal to 30 to 40 percent of the value. If you agree, the firm will tell you which state’s unclaimed property agency to contact. It’s up to you to fill out the forms and provide any documentation necessary. Instead of hiring a finder firm, Kantrowitz advises waiting a year or so after receiving a finder notice, then going to, where you’ll probably find the funds in question.

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Inherited 401 Distribution Options

You have the following choices for withdrawing funds from your inherited 401. They are discussed in detail below.

  • Roll the money over into your own 401 or IRA .
  • Take a lump-sum distribution.
  • Withdraw all funds by the end of five years after the owner’s death .
  • Withdraw all funds by the end of 10 years after the owner’s death .
  • Spread the withdrawals out over your lifetime by taking annual required minimum distributions .
  • What To Do With A Lost Retirement Account When You Find It

    How to Find Out If Someone Had Life Insurance When They ...

    Once youve found a lost retirement account, what you do with it depends on what type of plan it is and where its located.

    Old 401k balances can be rolled into your current employers plan or rolled into an IRA in a trustee-to-trustee transfer. You can also request a payout of the plan balance, but if you are under the age of 59.5, the payout will be subject to income taxes and a 10% penalty for early withdrawal.

    If you find an old pension through the PBGC, youll have to go through a process to verify your identity. Once the PBGC has established that you are owed the benefits, you can apply for them at any time once youve reached retirement age.

    Its not uncommon for former employees to leave funds in a former employers retirement plan, believing theyll get around to dealing with it later. Years pass by, and maybe youve forgotten about a few old accounts. Even if they didnt amount to much at the time, a few hundred dollars here and there combined with some market growth over the years just might add up to a nice addition to your retirement savings. Its worth a look!

    Read Also: Where To Put My 401k

    Why Does California Have An Unclaimed Property Law

    The Unclaimed Property Law was passed to protect consumers. It prevents businesses with unclaimed property from keeping your money and using it as business income. The law provides California citizens a single source, the State Controllers Office, to check for unclaimed property that may be reported by businesses from around the nation and enables the State to return property, or the net proceeds from any legally required sale of the property, to its rightful owner or their heirs.

    Find Lost 401k: How To Find Out If You Have Lost Or Forgotten Retirement Accounts

    Here is a guide for how to find lost money a lost 401k or other unclaimed retirement benefits.

    Finding a lost 401k or other retirement account is more tedious than metal detector treasure hunting,but perhaps more rewarding.

    A few years ago, I received a strange notice in the mail: a former employer was discontinuing their retirement plan and I had 30 days to either roll my balance into a different account or receive a distribution from the plan. This sort of thing happens quite often when people change jobs and leave their retirement account in the old employers plan. The strange thing about this notice was, I had no idea Id been participating in the plan while I worked there!

    Could the same thing have happened to you? If youre looking for ways to increase your retirement savings, you just may want to look for lost or forgotten retirement accounts.

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    K Search Find And Claim Missing 401 Retirement Plan Benefits

    The U.S. Department of Labor estimates each year 2.8 million workers fail to claim or rollover $155 billion in 401k retirement plan assets when they change jobs. In total, 24 million participants are owed unclaimed funds totaling $1.33 trillion. A disproportionate share of the missing are family members of deceased employees who fail to claim pension benefits stemming from employment that may have ended years earlier.

    Another increasingly common problem: former employees of bankrupt companies unable to locate their 401 accounts, because many insolvent businesses fail to provide for the administration of 401k plan assets when they cease operations. Participants in defined-contribution retirement plans such as the 401 are protected when their employers fail or otherwise cease operations, because they individually own the assets in their accounts.

    This differs from employees with traditional pension plans, which are subject to the solvency of the employer but may be protected against loss by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, the federal agency responsible for the regulation of private pension plans.

    Note: For assistance with a missing defined-benefit pension, go to: Unclaimed Pension Search. For assistance with a lost IRA, go to: Unclaimed IRA Search.

    If you have reason to believe you are entitled to claim a missing 401k, either as the employee, spouse or rightful heir, but have not received payment, complete the form below to initiate a search.

    What You Can Do Next

    401K Distribution After Death – Lump Sum Payout

    To keep track of your retirement accounts, you first must know where they all are. Once you gather all your old accounts in one place and make sure they are properly balanced, its about sticking to the same investment principlesensuring your money is in diversified, low-cost fundsthat you would follow for your current company retirement plan.

    For Compliance Use Only:1020356-00003-00

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    How The Secure Act Affects 401 Beneficiary Distributions

    In an effort to increase tax income for the federal government, the SECURE Act requires most beneficiaries to withdraw all of the funds in an inherited 401 within ten years. This law replaces the required minimum distributions guidelines for those beneficiaries.

    No minimum amount needs to be withdrawn from the account each year during the ten-year period. The only stipulation is that all of the funds must be distributed by the tenth anniversary of the account holder’s death.

    Rollovers of 401s into an eligible retirement account qualify as a full distribution of funds.

    Us Department Of Labor

    Even if your former employer abandoned its retirement plan, your money isnt lost forever. The U.S. Department of Labor maintains records for plans that have been abandoned or are in the process of being terminated. Search their database to find the Qualified Termination Administrator responsible for directing the shutdown of the plan.

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    If Your Spouse Was Over Age 72 And You Are Over Age 72

    If your spouse was over age 72 and had already started taking required minimum distributions at the time of death, and you are also over your RMD age, the rule is that you must continue to take out at least the required minimum distributions. This could happen in a few ways.

    • You can roll the funds over to your own IRA, called a spousal IRA. With this option, you would take required distributions based on your age and the Uniform Lifetime Table. If you wish, you can take out more than this amount, but not less. You would name your own beneficiaries with this option. For most people, this is the best option.
    • You can leave the money in the plan, continuing the distributions according to the required minimum distribution schedule that applied to your spouse. If you choose, you can take out more than this amount, but not less. The beneficiary designations set up by your spouse continue to apply.
    • You can roll the funds over to a specific type of account called an inherited IRA. With an inherited IRA, you would take required distributions based on your single life expectancy table. If you want, you can take out more than this amount, but not less. You would name your own beneficiaries with this option.

    If you and your spouse were about the same age, the choices above would result in about the same required distribution. However, rolling it over to your own IRA may provide additional options for your future beneficiaries.

    S To Find Your Old 401

    How to Check Social Security Benefits

    Its not all that uncommon to lose a 401 especially if you didnt have much invested to begin with. Its possible you were automatically enrolled in a 401 by your old employer and didnt know the account existed. Or maybe you got caught up in the process of switching jobs and forgot to tie up loose ends.

    Whatever the case, you can rest assured that your retirement funds arent gone, and youre entitled to them. Its a simple matter of tracking them down and you can start by contacting your old employer.

    1. Contact your old employer

    Start your search by reaching out to the human resources department of your previous employer. If you dont have HRs email address or phone number on hand, reach out to any company employees youre still in touch with to request the information.

    In most cases, it shouldnt be too hard to reconnect with your old employer, but if your company merged with another firm or went out of business, you may need to move on to step two.

    2. Speak to the plan administrator

    Now lets say you havent had much luck reaching your old company. The next point of contact will be the plan administrator, which is the investment company responsible for managing the investments in your old 401 account.

    3. Search national databases

    If you follow these steps and still come up short, try a national database. There are numerous sites and services designed to connect former employees with lost retirement savings.

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    Look At State Unclaimed Money Websites

    While youre looking for your retirement money, you might as well check for any other lost dough. When Florida nurse Mary Pitman ran a random search on, a database maintained by the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators, she found $2,500 in stocks left behind when her father died.

    I became a believer real quick, says Pitman, who wrote The Little Book of Missing Money to help others find lost cash. The unclaimed property administrators group also maintains, which points users to databases of missing cash turned over to individual state treasuries.

    Run a search based on states where you once lived or worked to find money owed to you. Most missing 401 plans wouldnt be turned over to a state, officials say, but vested company stocks, forgotten bank accounts, uncashed paychecks or utility deposits are commonly turned over to state treasuries. In 2015 alone, $7.8 billion in missing money was turned over to states, according to the NAUPA.

    Comb Through Financial Records

    Start by looking through your relative’s financial records, if any of that is still available. Ideally, you’re looking for statements, passbooks or correspondence regarding bank accounts that are, or might be, still open. Tax returns are good sources of information since they often include bank account details look in the “interest paid” section to identify the banks where savings earned interest. You can order copies of tax returns using IRS Form 4506. Include a copy of the death certificate and the fee to obtain multiple years’ returns.

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    Search Failed Banks At The Fdic

    If your relative has an account with a recently failed bank, you’ll need to contact the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. The FDIC has an online search tool that helps people locate funds in this situation. To run a search, visit the FDIC website, and use its BankFind tool to search institutions.

    Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation

    How to find an old 401k

    The FDIC is designed to protect people’s money held in banks through FDIC insurance. Bank account holders have federal protection for assets up to $250,000 in any given FDIC-insured institution.

    The FDIC not only provides this insurance for account holders against potential bank failure, it also maintains records of merged or failed institutions, and the owners of those accounts. Going to the FDIC website, use the “bank find” tool to search institutions. If funds were unclaimed for an extended period of time, they may be held in the state controller’s office. The FDIC offers links to free search tools administered by the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators.

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    Hire An Asset Recovery Service

    If all else fails, hire an asset recovery service to run the search for you. Finding deceased people’s bank accounts is all part of a days work for investigators, who can often trace and recover bank accounts very quickly in multiple jurisdictions. Their services probably won’t come cheap, but they could be useful in large, complex cases where your relative might have left bank accounts all over the world.

    Unclaimed Retirement Benefits: Missing Pension Search

    Pension plan administrators are often unable to locate lost employees or missing beneficiaries who have moved or changed name over the years, and companies owing unclaimed pension benefits may have moved, change name, merged or gone bankrupt, making them difficult to trace.

    To further complicate matters in many cases pension obligations have been transferred to a successor company after a merger or bankruptcy.

    Because many private pension plans are federally insured, even if a company dissolved or went bankrupt it may be possible to receive unclaimed benefits. Furthermore, The Retirement Equity Act of 1984 provides for benefits to be paid to surviving spouses. Spouses of deceased workers who did not opt out, therefore, should initiate a search if they feel they may be entitled to benefits not received.

    The Pension Search Program, initiated in 1996, attempts to locate those entitled to unclaimed pension benefits. More than 36,000 employees are eligible to claim $300 million in pension benefits from terminated defined benefit pension plans have not been located. The maximum benefit payable is currently over $45,000 per year.

    Note: The rules for IRAs and 401 plans are different for assistance tracing these types of retirement accounts go to: Unclaimed 401k Search or Missing IRA Search.

    U.S. Federal Government Unclaimed

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    Next Steps For Your Money

    If your old 401 plan is still with a former employer, one option is to leave the money there. But you may not pay as much attention to the account, which could lead to a portfolio thats not appropriate for your age and risk tolerance.

    If youre still working and have a 401 at your new job, another option is to roll over the funds into your existing plan, assuming your employer allows it. Another option is to roll the money into an IRA. Having your savings in one place will make it easier to manage your investments.

    If youve lost track of a pension, request a pension benefits statement from the plan administrator. Give the administrator your address and phone number so it can reach you to begin payments. You may need to prove your work history and eligibility for the pension you can do so by providing the plan administrator with old W-2 forms or an earnings statement from Social Security, which you can get by filing Form SSA-7050. You can get this form at or by calling Social Security at 800-772-1213.

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