Can a Surviving Spouse Reverse Retirement Plan Changes?

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    Investment Options

    • Investment option changes inside of a retirement account are reversible. These plan changes may have taken place during your spouse's lifetime as a result of a change in your spouse's investment experience or preferences. However, you may change investments inside of the account once you inherit it. As a spouse, you may retitle an IRA so that the account is in your name. Otherwise, most other retirement accounts allow you to transfer the money from your spouse's account into your own. This transfer is tax free and gives you the benefit of reallocating investments without having to cash out of the account.


    • Annuities are insurance policies. These contracts may trigger guaranteed income payments when your spouse dies. At death, income payments start. Once these payments start, they cannot be reversed. You receive the payments for the specified amount of time outlined in the contract. You may, however, contact a structured settlement company. The company will purchase your payments and send you a lump sum of money constituting the estimated value of your annuity payments over your life expectancy.


    • Pension plans are similar to annuities. The payments generated by the pension plan are not reversible. Lump sum amounts you receive from a pension plan might be reversible if the pension offers you an annuity payment option upon your spouse's death. Like annuity payments, the pension payment option may be purchased by a settlement company.


    • Distribution of your spouse's retirement account is reversible if you elect to make a spousal tax-free transfer into your own retirement account. This option must be elected after your spouse dies and before the retirement plan administrator closes the account. Alternatively, you may rename your spouse's account to put it into your own name. After this, you may make contributions and withdrawals from the account as you would any other retirement account.

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