With Death Benefits, Don't Count On Divorce Decrees

Law360, New York (April 29, 2011, 2:08 PM EDT) -- Litigants and attorneys often find themselves at the crossroads of state and federal law. One scenario which arises with increased frequency involves the proper distribution of death benefits where the Employee Retirement Income Security Act-governed pension or welfare plan providing those benefits is governed by federal law, but the designated beneficiary’s interest purportedly has been extinguished by a divorce agreement pursuant to state law.

Recent cases confirm that, at the intersection of federal and state law, divorce agreements must yield to ERISA plan documents.

On March...
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