Ask Money

Who gets my 403(b) at death

Chris Farrell Sep 20, 2010

Question: When you retire and decide to take your 403B over your lifetime, if you should die early and you have not used all the money in your account, does TIAA-CREF keep the remainder or can the remainder be willed to someone? Joanne, Nashville, TN

Answer: No, TIAA-CREF or any other manager of a 401(k), 403(b) or similar defined contribution pension plan doesn’t get to keep the money. It’s yours. What you have to do is fill out the beneficiary designation that is part of your 403(b) plan. It’s how you get the money to your heirs.

Now, if you’re married, your spouse is automatically the beneficiary of the 403(b). However, it’s still a good idea to fill in your spouse’s name on the form. It’s a record of your wishes.

If you have children and you want them to get the money they need to be designated as beneficiaries in case you die early.

If you’re single and you pass away with money left in the account it will go to whomever you say is your beneficiary or beneficiaries–a partner, a friend, a niece, a nephew and so on.

Fill out the beneficiary form.

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