Madison - St. Clair Record

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Estranged widow sues for transfer of late husband’s IRA

By Carol Ostrow | Jun 2, 2015

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An Alton woman claims she was unlawfully removed as sole beneficiary of an IRA.

JoAnn Smith filed a lawsuit as an individual and as estate administrator for the late Donald L. Smith on May 27 in Madison County Circuit Court against The Vanguard Group Inc. of Springfield and Scott Smith and Jeffrey Smith of Alton.

The plaintiff claims Vanguard holds an IRA in Donald Smith's name and that Scott Smith and Jeffrey Smith are listed as beneficiaries of the IRA. The suit states that the beneficiaries are listed in violation of a previous court order and that the funds are marital property established by the decedent.

According to the complaint, Donald Smith rolled over his 401K funds into the IRA on or about May 10, 2003, and designated JoAnn Smith as primary beneficiary on or about July 31, 2013, with no secondary beneficiaries. The suit says the fund is listed as having an amount in excess of $500,000.

The plaintiff claims Donald Smith filed for a restraining order and injunction against JoAnn Smith on Aug. 6, 2013. The suit says Donald Smith filed for divorce on Sept. 6, 2013, and changed his IRA beneficiary designation to his sons, Scott and Jeffrey, on March 13, 2014.

JoAnn Smith alleges no prior knowledge of the reassignment and alleges that Donald Smith, who died on March 30, 2015, made the change improperly. She claims the change is ineffective.

The plaintiff seeks a declaratory judgment to determine that she is the sole beneficiary and to have the funds transferred into her name and held by Vanguard until further notice. She is represented by Phillip Hamilton of Farrell, Hamilton & Julian in Godfrey.

Madison County Circuit Court case number 15-L-679

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