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All you need to do is get forms
from the brokerage where you want to set up the IRA (whether it
be Vanguard, etc) and then get your old company to make out a
distribution check. My husband's place sent us a check which we
then forwarded with the paperwork to Vanguard, others will send it

A small word of caution, just to keep life simple :-)

Beware of the word "distribution". It's less of a hassle for you if you open your new account as an "IRA Rollover Account" and allow the new broker to handle the transfer of funds from your former employer's 401(K) plan. When you send in your application for the new account, include a copy of your most recent 401(k) statement with instructions to roll it into the new IRA. They'll take it from there.

In other words, you've not taken a distribution (your hands never touched the money). If the only way your old company will handle it is to send you a check, then in order to avoid taxes and early-distribution penalties, you'll need to show that the monies were rolled over within the 60 day limit.

It's just so much easier to never touch the money while it's in transit from one account to the other.

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