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How to Name a Non-Spouse Beneficiary of Your Retirement Account

Life events happen. Marriage is one of those major life events that make you focus on not just the present, but the future. Ed Slott and Company IRA Technical Consultant Jeffrey Levine got married this past Sunday then sat down to talk about how you can name a non-spouse beneficiary of your retirement account.

It seems counter-intuitive, but Levine wants you to know that naming a spouse is the easy part, yet there are many current and future retirees that don't have a spouse or want to name a child or grandchildren as the beneficiary of their life savings instead. This video demonstrates the steps to take when naming a non-spouse beneficiary of your retirement account.

-By Jeffrey Levine and Jared Trexler


thanks for explaining this.really helpful.

Jeffrey - congratulations on getting married. I like the video and it is spot on. Here in California we do need the spouse to waive their right to the IRA if someone other than the spouse is named as the beneficiary.

It is worth noting that if a non-spouse was named the beneficiary of an IRA before the marriage - a new beneficiary form does not need to be signed. The current beneficiary stays in tact.

However, with a 401k, as we have learned in the extensive training is not the same. With a 401k the new spouse is automatically the beneficiary even if the form on file has someone else listed.

Great video and again, congratulations on your marriage.

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Thursday's Slott Report Mailbag

Consumers: Send in Your Questions to [email protected]

You recently said that a 401(k) distribution would add to your MAGI (modified adjusted gross income) for the purpose of determining if you are subject to the 3.8% healthcare surtax. What about Roth IRA distributions? Would they also count towards your total MAGI income for surtax purposes?


IRA distributions are exempt from the 3.8% surtax, but taxable distributions from IRAs can push income over the threshold amount, causing other investment income to be subject to the surtax. Because Roth IRA distributions are generally tax-free, they don’t count towards your total MAGI.