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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.
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That sounds very strange. A retirement plan administrator may be either an official at the employer company, or a firm administering the plan on an outsourced basis, but in either case the plan administrator is who the original beneficiary designations have to go to when signed by the employee/participant. And when I've called them they were able to tell me what their records showed for beneficiaries. Fortunately my sister had Dad update his accounts for that after Mom died. I went through this multiple times when my father died in 2016, and more recently when my daughter died this year, so my memory is fairly fresh on the subject.

Generally, the process a beneficiary does to get a retirement plan is very similar to a life insurance claim process. And when there are multiple beneficiaries, the quickest and smoothest procedure is for each beneficiary to complete and sign a claim form, and submit them together with the death certificate (that way they're only looking for one)and any other required documentation.

But it sounds like your situation, the beneficiary designation either wasn't made or was defective in some other way, or you wouldn't have had to put it into probate.

Bill
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