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Q&A Series: How Do I Find Out if the Term "Per Stirpes" was Used in my Great Aunt'


Below is a recent question I answered on Avvo:



Asker Question:

Our great aunt named my dad as a beneficiary to IRAs and Tax Annuities, along with other beneficiaries, I am wondering if there is a way to find out if she used the term "per stirpes" so my dads portion would go to his kids, my dad passed away before our great aunt, she did change her will after his death to give his part of her estate to his surviving children, but not sure she changed her IRAs and Tax Annuities. How would I go about finding this out? I have the names of where she had each IRA and Tax Annuity.

Attorney Response:

Find out who the Personal Representative is for your Aunt's Estate. They may be able to access the paperwork showing how your Aunt filled out the beneficiary designations before she died. In addition, they may be able to consult with your Aunt's financial advisor who may know how she filled out the designations. You could also provide a death certificate to the IRA and Annuity company showing that your Aunt has passed. If you are named as a Beneficiary then they will release the funds to you. If she did not change the beneficiary designations on her IRA and Annuities, and if your Dad is still named, then the proceeds of her IRA and Annuities will go to your Dad's Estate. If you are a beneficiary of your Dad's estate, then you will still receive the proceeds, but you may need to re-open his estate to do this. Consult with a qualified local estate planning attorney to help you with all of this.

This is not legal advice nor intended to create an attorney-client relationship. The information provided here is informational in nature only. You should seek a consultation with a licensed attorney in your area if you seek a complete review and discussion of your situation.

Asker Comment:

The Personal Representative for her Estate is my uncle, my dad's brother, but I feel uncomfortable asking him about this because I feel he, along with my dads other siblings, may have some how ripped my brother, sister and me off with this whole thing. There is just something very odd about the whole thing and I am hoping to go around my uncle to find out what exactly happened. I know they were all bitter that nothing was left to their kids, but the only reason my brother, sister and myself were named in the Will is because our father passed away. Our great aunt was a wealthy woman, never married, no kids, she adored my father and would want her wishes carried out. My brother, sister and me are not money hungry, we just want to know what happened and if our family took something away from us that was rightfully our fathers. If my dads estate was closed before our great aunts, so if she did have him named as a beneficiary, which I am pretty sure he was, would the proceeds still go to my dads estate, even if it was closed? Let's say my dad, my uncle and my aunt were beneficiaries on the same IRA, since my dad has passed, would his portion go to my uncle and aunt, or would his portion still go to his estate?

Asker Comment:

Are you saying that if my dad was on one or more of her IRA and/or tax annuities, the proceeds may have gone to our dads estate and we do not know about it and the only way we would know is if we re-open his estate? Our mom is willing to help out in any way, if she needs to re-open his estate, then she will do so. Thinking our best bet is to some how get a copy of our aunts death certificate and then speak with where her IRAs and tax annuities were to find out if our dad was still listed as a beneficiary.

Attorney Comment:

It would depend on how your Aunt had her beneficiary designation forms filled out. If your Dad was listed as a primary beneficiary, but he predeceased her, it is possible she had others listed as contingent beneficiaries. However, if your Dad was listed as the primary beneficiary, but then your Aunt's Estate was listed as the contingent or "fall back" beneficiary, then it depends on what your Aunt's Will said to direct those funds. Whether your Dad's probate estate administration was still open or not when your Aunt died should not matter as to whether his estate is entitled to those proceeds. Yes, if you have a copy of the death certificate, and you know the name of the company, you could try contacting them directly with the death certificate. If your Dad was listed, they should notify you. If however he was not listed as a beneficiary they will likely not be able to help you further. Best of luck!

This is not legal advice nor intended to create an attorney-client relationship. The information provided here is informational in nature only. You should seek a consultation with a licensed attorney in your area if you seek a complete review and discussion of your situation.

#QASeries #avvocom #EstateAdministration #WisconsinLaw #IRA #BeneficiaryDesignations

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