Why marital status matters when designating a beneficiary

When setting up your Guideline 401(k) account, you’ll be asked to name a beneficiary or someone who will inherit your 401(k) account if you pass away. If you’re not married you can choose anyone to be your beneficiary. 

However, if you’re married, or are planning to get married, please be aware that by law, your spouse is your default beneficiary, regardless of who you may have been your beneficiary before getting married. This means if you pass away, your 401(k) funds will transfer to your surviving spouse. A “spouse” refers to any individuals who are lawfully married under any state law. This includes being legally married persons of the same sex.

If you want to designate a beneficiary other than your spouse, your spouse’s notarized, written consent is required and if you want to change to a different beneficiary later on, you must receive additional notarized consent. 

It’s important to review and update your Guideline account whenever your marital or familial status changes. 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.

See this article Choosing a 401(k) beneficiary to learn more about selecting a beneficiary.

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