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administrator treating esop pension plan as estate property


Guest MaxiH
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I have found myself in a situation where I probably need an Erisa savy attorney but would like to give an account of facts and to welcome any thoughts by other members.

My brother joined a private utilities company in the 1960's and joined their stock option retirement plan in which he purchased stock and was matched at 50% from his employer. I was named as contingent beneficiary along with my mother who was named as primary beneficiary. My mother passed leaving me as the only named benificiary of the plan.

My brother was married in the 1970's but never changed the benificiary designation listed on the original form. After he retired in eary 1990's the plan remained intact and wasn't dissolved, cashed out or terminated.

I never wanted or even thought of interfering with her rights as a surviving spouse when my brother died in the late 90's. But then when his wife passed a few years later the administrator of the estate says this plan is to be treated as part of the estate and passed to her heirs which reside in europe. The plan states the account remains intact as long as there is a balance. I have all the original forms which are properly signed dated and witnessed but with the amount of time that has gone by most of the people on the form have passed.

I have gained the help of some local attorneys to write letters for me but their letters have been met with a rabid response and I don't feel their expertise is in this field although I have known for a long time

but feel I need someone whose expertise is related to the situation.

Please be kind as I am up in years but have trid to be as accurate as possible.

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If the plan was a qualified retirement plan, the surviving spouse is the beneficiary by law unless the spouse consents to designation of a different beneficiary. It does not matter what the actual designation was before or after the marriage. If the spouse does not consent to naming someone else, the spouse gets the benefits upon the participant's death. Once the benefits pass to the spouse, they would not revert to the participant's line unless the spouse arranged for it and the plan allowed it.

I don't see much prospect for a different result, but you should not rely on any comments you get from a forum like this one.

One more thought. You should have received something more informative than a rabid response when you contacted the plan administrator, if it appeared that the inquiry was from heirs or designated beneficiaries. Ignorant lawyers do not necessarily make the best inquiries.

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If the plan was a qualified retirement plan, the surviving spouse is the beneficiary by law unless the spouse consents to designation of a different beneficiary. It does not matter what the actual designation was before or after the marriage. If the spouse does not consent to naming someone else, the spouse gets the benefits upon the participant's death. Once the benefits pass to the spouse, they would not revert to the participant's line unless the spouse arranged for it and the plan allowed it.

I don't see much prospect for a different result, but you should not rely on any comments you get from a forum like this one.

One more thought. You should have received something more informative than a rabid response when you contacted the plan administrator, if it appeared that the inquiry was from heirs or designated beneficiaries. Ignorant lawyers do not necessarily make the best inquiries.

If you would like me to review the documents, I would be glad to take a look. It's been a while since I functioned as a lawyer, but I have seen lots of ESOPs and option plans, so I can at least give you an objective reaction.

You can e-mail me at geertom@gmail.com or call/fax at 888-277-1017. I would absolutely need to see what you have in hand to give any meaningful input, so scan and e-mail or fax the materials.

Tom Geer

Thomas L. Geer, J.D., LL.M.

Benefit Plan Solutions

Blog: http://401k-403b-457-plansblog.blogspot.com/

Email: geertom@gmail.com

Phone & Fax: (888) 315-6720

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I understand what you are saying but the benefits from the stock plan remained intact and funds were never distributed. The articles from the plan clearly state that the thrift plan remains a thrift plan as long as there is a balance remaining in it. Any interest or assets leaving the plan become personal or community property by participants or designated benificiaries. The articles of the plan state that only when all participants and designated benificiaries of the plan have passed does the assets become part of the last remaining participant or benificiaries estate. The spouse is given the right to withdraw or dissolve or further redirect the assets but if she or he leaves assets in the plan and dies ---well---The Plan Remains and if a benificiary remains.... well --this is how it is written and is part of a publically traded company so the stock option retirement plan is available for public view year after year. Will it hold water---I haven't a clue.

If the plan was a qualified retirement plan, the surviving spouse is the beneficiary by law unless the spouse consents to designation of a different beneficiary. It does not matter what the actual designation was before or after the marriage. If the spouse does not consent to naming someone else, the spouse gets the benefits upon the participant's death. Once the benefits pass to the spouse, they would not revert to the participant's line unless the spouse arranged for it and the plan allowed it.

I don't see much prospect for a different result, but you should not rely on any comments you get from a forum like this one.

One more thought. You should have received something more informative than a rabid response when you contacted the plan administrator, if it appeared that the inquiry was from heirs or designated beneficiaries. Ignorant lawyers do not necessarily make the best inquiries.

If you would like me to review the documents, I would be glad to take a look. It's been a while since I functioned as a lawyer, but I have seen lots of ESOPs and option plans, so I can at least give you an objective reaction.

You can e-mail me at geertom@gmail.com or call/fax at 888-277-1017. I would absolutely need to see what you have in hand to give any meaningful input, so scan and e-mail or fax the materials.

Tom Geer

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