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MA Beneficiary of IRA dies first?

My girlfriend's uncle just died and she is one of three beneficiaries of his medium size estate. She just discovered that the uncle's IRA had a beneficiary designation form that listed his brother as the beneficiary. But the brother died 18 months before the uncle and there is no other beneficiary named. So, in this case, who gets the IRA proceeds and who decides who gets it? Thanks in advance.

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The answer likely depends on the terms of the will, trust, or other relevant estate planning documents.  (I'm assuming there are some estate planning documents involved because you describe your girlfriend as a beneficiary).  In any case, whether there is a will or not, the determination of who get the IRA money will be made by the probate court, either by applying the terms of the estate planning documents or the law of intestacy.  Sorry I can't be more helpful.  This question highlights the need to: (1) include contingent beneficiaries in all estate planning documents and on all accounts, insurance, etc., and (2) update your estate plan whenever there is a major change in your life and, certainly, whenever one of your intended beneficiaries passes away.  For more information, visit our MA Estate Planning Discussion Forum.


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