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Opinion: How to make sure your spouse gets your retirement savings when you die


If you designate beneficiaries for your retirement accounts, that’s usually a surefire way to pass those assets directly to your desired heirs without going through probate—but not always.

Because those beneficiary designations are so important, you should verify your choices every year in case there’s a change due to, say, marriage, birth, divorce or death. Especially marriage and divorce. Which brings me to a crucial issue: When dealing with IRA and 401(k) beneficiary designations, there’s a key difference when it comes to your spouse.

In general, a spouse who hasn’t been named beneficiary of an IRA isn’t entitled to inherit it. Unlike 401(k)…


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