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D.C. Court of Appeals: Survivor Benefit in Undistributed Benefits Irrevocably Vests Upon Retirement; ERISA Pre-empts State Law Constructive Trust Effort (PDF)
U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia CircuitLink to more items from this source
Jan. 21, 2015
"John argues that the divorce decree and this Texas statute entitle him to a declaration that he 'has equitable title' to Melissa's survivor benefit, and that upon receipt of her annuity, Melissa is bound by Texas law to deliver it to John's designee.... The conflict between ERISA and Texas law could hardly be starker -- what ERISA gives to Melissa, John argues, Texas takes away. But as the Supreme Court held ... 'in the face of this direct clash between state law and the provisions and objectives of ERISA, the state law cannot stand.' ... This case involves an effort by a plan participant to obtain an interest in undistributed plan benefits, and we hold only that absent a qualified domestic relations order and compliance with ERISA's strict waiver provisions for survivor annuities, he may not use state law for that purpose. This opinion has nothing to say about how ERISA might affect an effort by a plan participant to use state law to obtain an interest in benefits after distribution to the beneficiary." [Vanderkam v. Vanderkam, No. 13-5163 (D.C. Cir. Jan. 20, 2015)]

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