How can I get information about my deceased husband's retirement account if his employer withholds it?

That is unusual. Contact his employer again and if you are not satisfied with the response, ask to speak with a supervisor or senior officer. It is possible that you received incorrect information from the person you first spoke with.

Usually, as the beneficiary you are required to make certain distribution elections by Dec 31 of the year following the year the participant dies. This election could give you the option to start receiving withdrawals as early as Dec 31 of the year following the year the participant dies. Failure to make this election could force you to distribute the assets within a short time frame and/or result in you owing the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) penalties for failing to distribute assets in a timely manner.


If you are the designated beneficiary of the retirement account, the plan administrator is required to provide you with information about the plan, including your account balance or benefits as well as the terms and conditions under which you may make withdrawals from the plan. You have this right because you become the owner of the assets upon the participant's death. In some cases, the plan administrator is the employer. If you are not sure of the identity of the plan administrator, contact the employer for that information. Ask the plan administrator for a copy of the summary plan description, which is a document that explains the features and benefits of the plan in plain language. When you next contact the plan administrator or the employer, in addition to contacting them by telephone, send your request in writing and use some form of traceable mail, so that you have confirmation of receipt.

Finally, if you are not satisfied with the response you get, you may contact the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) at 1-866-444-EBSA (3272).

To read more about inherited retirement plan assets, read Inherited Retirement Plan Assets – Part 1 and Inherited Retirement Plan Assets – Part 2.

This question was answered by Denise Appleby.

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