A participant passed away, how do I receive their funds?

When a participant of a Guideline 401(k) plan passes away, the beneficiary(ies) to the account must request a distribution of the account funds. If the participant designated a beneficiary to their account, we will need to get in direct contact with that named beneficiary. If you’re unsure whether you are the named beneficiary, please contact our Participant Support team for more information. 

If a beneficiary was not properly designated by a participant, then funds are distributed according to the plan document, which specifies who receives the funds in the following priority: 

  • First, the account funds will be paid to the surviving spouse, if one is living;
  • If no surviving spouse, then the account funds will be paid to the participant’s children, who will take per stirpes; 
  • If no surviving spouse and the participant dies with no children, the account funds will go to the participant’s parents, in equal shares; and
  • Finally, if no one else has claimed in this list, the account funds will go to the participant’s estate.

We require all beneficiaries to mail in a copy of their government-issued identification, along with a copy of the participant’s death certificate to our office:


Guideline, Inc.

Attn: Customer Success

1645 E. 6th St.

Suite 200

Austin, TX 78702


Please notify our Participant Support team once these documents are mailed. After the supporting documents are reviewed, a Guideline support representative will work with you to distribute funds in the account. 

In addition to providing a government-issued identification and a copy of the participant’s death certificate, additional documentation or actions may be taken to request the distribution of the participant’s funds for the following categories of beneficiaries:

Legal guardians. A deceased participant’s funds may be disbursed to the legal guardian for the benefit of a beneficiary who is a minor. If you are a legal guardian and the participant’s beneficiary is a minor, please contact our Participant Support team and we can walk you through the next steps. Along with the death certificate, additional mailed-in supporting documents are required, for example, a birth certificate or adoption decree. If both of the parents of the minor have passed away, you will need to consult an estate attorney, as they can provide insight on managing the funds for the minor. In addition, a petition with the probate court will need to be filed to appoint a legal guardian for the minor. 

Trusts. If you are a beneficiary or trustee listed in a trust, the first page of the fully executed trust is required to be mailed in to Guideline.

Charities. If you represent a charity designated as the beneficiary of a participant’s account, you must provide the charity’s W-9 in order for us to disburse the participant’s account.

Estate. If the participant dies with no surviving spouse, has no children, and no surviving parents, the funds will go to the participant’s estate. In this circumstance, the executor will need to provide additional documentation. Please contact our Participant Support team for insight.

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