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My mother passed away and left a retirement plan worth $ 32,000 she had no will and no beneficiary. what do I do?

Las Vegas, NV |
Attorney answers 6


You will need to open a probate estate-make appointment with probate attorney in the county she resides.

The answer given does not imply that an attorney-client relationship has been established and your best course of action is to have legal representation in this matter.


It would appear that you could use small estate proceedings to handle this matter, because the assets are worth less than $100,000. Because this will involve court proceedings, however, I would suggest that you do this through a probate attorney. The cost of an attorney is generally far less than the cost of fixing mistakes made without one.

James Frederick

*** LEGAL DISCLAIMER I am licensed to practice law in the State of Michigan and have offices in Wayne and Ingham Counties. My practice is focused in the areas of estate planning and probate administration. I am ethically required to state that the above answer does not create an attorney/client relationship. These responses should be considered general legal education and are intended to provide general information about the question asked. Frequently, the question does not include important facts that, if known, could significantly change the answer. Information provided on this site should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed attorney that practices in your state. The law changes frequently and varies from state to state. If I refer to your state's laws, you should not rely on what I say; I just did a quick Internet search and found something that looked relevant that I hoped you would find helpful. You should verify and confirm any information provided with an attorney licensed in your state.

James P. Frederick

James P. Frederick


P.S. For more on the Nevada small estate proceedings, see here: I forgot to add that to the original response.


The laws of the state where your mother passed away are typically applicable. If she was a resident of Nevada when she passed away, the limit for the small estate affidavit is $20,000. You will need to file a Petition for Set Aside with the probate court and give notice to other family members. The forms for Clark County are available on the Clark County probate court website.


First, almost every Retirement Plan asks who should be the Beneficiary in the event of the Retiree's death. More than likely, even if you Mom had no Will, she may have in fact still designated one or more beneficiaries for her Retirement Plan. Second, if it turns out (after all) that she was one of the very FEW people who opens a Retirement Plan without designating a beneficiary of that Retirement Plan, then a Small Estate Probate may be needed. As my colleague said, the forms for Clark County are available on the Clark County probate court. website.


It is likely to pass according to the rules of intestate secession. You need to speak with a probate attorney. Non-Spouse Person and/or Spouse Who Is One of Multiple Beneficiaries
A non-spouse beneficiary or a spouse who is one of multiple beneficiaries may distribute the assets over the life expectancy of the oldest beneficiary or distribute the full balance by December 31 of the fifth year following the year the participant dies. The spouse beneficiary also has the option to distribute and roll over his or her portion to his or her own IRA.

Like the life expectancy of the spouse sole beneficiary, the life expectancy is determined by using the "Single Life Expectancy Table in Appendix C" of IRS Publication 590. In this case, however, the table is not referred to each year. Instead, the life expectancy for the year following the year in which the participant dies - and for each subsequent year - is determined by subtracting 1 from the previous year's life expectancy. If the beneficiaries elect to have the assets distributed over the life expectancy of the beneficiary, then distributions must begin by December 31 of the year following the year the participant dies.

For both the spouse and the non-spouse beneficiary, the life expectancy option is the default option if no election is made.

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If your mother left an estate of $32,000 in Nevada, the procedure you would use would be the procedure called "Set Aside Without Administration." As a practical matter you are unlikely to be able to handle this yourself. You will find that the Clark County Court website forms are really designed for the simpler procedure involving estates under $20,000. My law firm of Reed & Mansfield does uncontested Set Asides Without Administration for estates over $20,000 and not more than $100,000 for the low, discount, affordable price of $1,475, all government fees included. We do a lot of these and if you hire us you deal with a lawyer, not with a secretary or paralegal.

However, you only need to do this probate procedure if the retirement plan listed no beneficiary. You can send a certified copy of your mother's death certificate to the retirement plan administrator with a letter asking that payment be made to you if you are in fact listed as the or a beneficiary under her plan.

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