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Some comments on vkg's post:

b.) Probate in my area takes a minimum of a year. It took almost 3 months to obtain Letters of Administration. Fortunately, we have a family lawyer that is good and can be trusted.

c.) Probate is more expensive than a handling a trust.

Both of these statements are entirely dependent on the state where the decedent lived. If the state has "difficult" probate processes (like yours), a trust is simpler and cheaper. If the state has "easy" probate, the trust can be more expensive.

a.) The Administrator is not allowed to know who the beneficiaries are for retirement accounts. Providing the Letters of Administration and Death Certificate allowed one administrator to transfer the account to the estate but they would never make a statement to me that there was no beneficiary.

b.) 401K and IRAs are administered through separate organizations within the same brokerage.

I have never had a problem getting the names of the designated beneficiaries, even in a situation where I wasn't the official Administrator. (I was the contingent Administrator, the primary Administrator had declined to serve. I was awaiting official appointment as nine months after death approached, and needed the information to prepare disclaimers.) This reinforces your earlier point to make sure beneficiary designations are up-to-date.

I have found that the handling of IRAs and 401Ks after death is usually done by the same department - one that specializes in estate/decedent issues.

i.) Provided Death Certificate and Letters of Administration to the retail broker. They said they would forward it to their 401K administrator.

I only contact retail broker to determine who to contact at Corporate. Or I call the 800 number on the broker's website and work through their customer support team.

4.) Establish a relationship with a lawyer.
We have had a trust and wills. We been through handling my FIL's trust when he passed away. When events occur, it helps to have access to lawyer that you can trust.

Can't emphasize that too much! It can also help if the decedent had a relationship with a lawyer. When my brother died in MA, where he had lived for over 30 years, my attorney contacts were in NY and NJ (where I have lived my adult life). Fortunately, the lawyer that handled his condo closing in 1983 and his wills in 1998 and 2011 was still in practice. He was the obvious choice to handle probate.

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