After setting up your Guideline 401(k), you’ll be asked to name a beneficiary – someone who will inherit your 401(k) account if you pass away. If you’re not married, the rules are simple: choose anyone to be your beneficiary.
However, if you’re married – or planning to get married – there are some key rules you need to be aware of:
- Your spouse is your default beneficiary, regardless of who you may have designated as a beneficiary prior to tying the knot.
- If you die first, 100% of your 401(k) funds will transfer to your surviving spouse.
- If you want to designate a beneficiary other than your spouse, your spouse’s written consent is required. And if you want to change to a different beneficiary later on, you must obtain additional consent.
Who qualifies as a spouse?
In case you’re unclear – the term “spouse” here refers to any individuals who are lawfully married under any state law, including individuals married to a person of the same sex (who were legally married in a state that recognizes such marriages, even if they live in a state that doesn’t recognize such marriages).
Divorcing? You’ll want to update your account
If you go from single to married and forget to update your marital status in your Guideline account, the law still automatically applies. However, if you divorce, your former spouse’s rights to your 401(k) will not be automatically revoked. So it’s a good idea to update your Guideline account whenever your marital status changes, unless you don’t mind your former spouse inheriting your 401(k) after you die.
Check out our article "How do I choose a beneficiary?" for more information about selecting a beneficiary.