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May I Be Entitled To A Benefit If My Husband Predeceases Me After the Benefits Have Commenced?

Q. James M. from Colts Neck, NJ asks: "May I Be Entitled to a Benefit if My Husband Predeceases Me After the Benefits Have Commenced?"

A. Evan from Pension Evaluators® at Troyan Inc.®, answers: "Yes, because you are deemed as the ex-spouse (the alternate payee) in a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) you will qualify to receive survivor benefits upon the death of the former spouse (if the QDRO so provides). The former spouse must have been married to the plan participant for at least one year to qualify for survivor benefits unless the plan provides otherwise.

Internal Revenue Code Sections 401(a)(11) and 417 require that pension plan benefits be paid to the surviving spouse of a plan participant. Internal Revenue Code Section 414(p)(5)(A) states that a former spouse will qualify as a surviving spouse and receive benefits to the extent provided in a QDRO. The actual spouse of the participant at the date of death will not be treated as the surviving spouse with respect to the benefits designated to the former spouse by the QDRO. However, in order for the former spouse to receive benefits upon the death of the participant, the QDRO writer must designate the former spouse as a survivor benefit recipient. Otherwise, the former spouse will not receive benefits that were agreed upon at the time of the divorce."

Evan Edelstein

Lead QDRO Analyst

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