If you are entitled to inherit an IRA from your spouse, avoiding spousal beneficiary mistakes is a high priority. Let’s cover some basic ones.
Defining a Spouse Beneficiary
While this may seem obvious to most, a spouse beneficiary must be married to the account owner at the time of the account owner’s death and must be named on the beneficiary form (or inherit directly through the custodian’s document default provisions).
Here is a compelling cautionary tale. It is an actual court case: IBEW Pacific Coast Pension Fund v Lee (2012, CA6), February 13, 2012.
Wayne Lee died with two wives and one pension plan. Wayne never got a legal divorce from his first wife. Wayne Lee was a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and contributed to their pension fund (an ERISA plan under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act). Wayne married Cleta in the State of Washington in February 1979.