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Category: Retirement

Are Your Contributions to Your 401(k) Plan Protected From Creditors in a Bankruptcy Proceeding?

Are Your Contributions to Your 401(k) Plan Protected From Creditors in a Bankruptcy Proceeding?

The answer depends. But, here’s how the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals answered that question in Davis v. Helbling (In re Davis), No. 19-3117, 2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 17223 (6th Cir. June 1, 2020). In 2017, Camille Davis filed a bankruptcy petition under Chapter 13 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. Chapter 13 gives individuals with a regular source of income the opportunity to propose a plan of repayment to their creditors while under the bankruptcy court’s protection. When Davis filed…

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An Idea Whose Time Has Come: A National “Lost and Found” for Retirement Accounts

An Idea Whose Time Has Come: A National “Lost and Found” for Retirement Accounts

As explained in my prior Post, each year millions of Americans lose thousands of dollars in retirement savings in the process of changing jobs. The problem largely results from employers shifting from defined benefit plans that pay an annuity for life to defined contribution plans, like 401(k) plans, that pay a lump sum upon separation from employment or at a later date when the participant elects to take his/her lump sum. If a separated participant chooses to leave the lump…

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Did You Know? Crimes Committed By Your Spouse May Be Detrimental to Your Pension

Did You Know? Crimes Committed By Your Spouse May Be Detrimental to Your Pension

Our intuition suggests this cannot be the case. After all, YOU did not commit the crime. However, at least in Texas (and possibly some other states) our intuition would be wrong if the retirement savings were jointly possessed during the marriage. A recent Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals decision makes this point abundantly clear. United States v. Berry, No. 19-20050, 2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 6260 (Feb. 28, 2020) In the Berry case, Gwendolyn Berry was convicted of wire fraud, mail…

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Out of a Job Due to Covid-19? You May Be Eligible for a Fully Vested Pension

Out of a Job Due to Covid-19? You May Be Eligible for a Fully Vested Pension

Most of us would be hard pressed to find anything positive to say about the Covid-19 pandemic. But, if you lost your job on account of the pandemic and were a participant in a pension plan where you had not yet vested in your pension, there may be a wee bit of good news. Under the Internal Revenue Code, participants automatically become vested in their accrued pension benefits upon the termination or partial termination of the pension plan. In the…

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It’s High Time to Do-Away With the “Arbitrary and Capricious” Standard of Review for Employee Benefit Claims

It’s High Time to Do-Away With the “Arbitrary and Capricious” Standard of Review for Employee Benefit Claims

The Employee Retirement Security Act (ERISA) has long-required that employee benefit plans (e.g., pension and welfare plans) provide “a full and fair review” of any decision denying a participant’s claim for benefits. ERISA §503, 29 U.S.C. §1133. Accordingly, most employee benefit plans provide procedures for submitting a claim for benefits to the plan administrator and for requesting a review of any denial of the claim. Often, the merits of a participant’s claim will turn on the interpretation of disputed plan…

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Growing Trend: Employers Are “De-Risking” Their Pension Plans Through the Purchase of Group Annuity Contracts

Growing Trend: Employers Are “De-Risking” Their Pension Plans Through the Purchase of Group Annuity Contracts

The past five years have seen a growing trend among sponsors of single-employer defined-benefit plans: They are “de-risking” their pension plans by transferring all or a portion of their pension obligations to a life insurance company through the purchase of a group annuity contract. Thereafter, the life insurance company is responsible for paying retirees’ pension benefits. The arrangement is appealing to plan sponsors because it enables them to reduce the risks of funding their pension obligations in a volatile asset…

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Widow’s Release Of Claims Against Deceased Husband’s Estate Did Not Extinguish Her Right To His Pension Account

Widow’s Release Of Claims Against Deceased Husband’s Estate Did Not Extinguish Her Right To His Pension Account

It makes me sad to learn when heirs fight over a decedent’s assets, especially when it involves a widow’s surviving spouse pension benefits, as occurred in Goins v. Tona L. Goins & Nat’l Elec. Annuity Plan, No. 16-cv-01281, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 71387 (S.D. Ill. May 10, 2017). In Goins, Robert Goins passed away and was survived by his wife Tona Goins and two adult sons who were Tona’s step sons. Sometime after Robert’s death, a dispute arose between Tona…

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Underfunded Pension Plans; The PBGC; And What The Heck Got Us Into This Pension Funding Mess?

Underfunded Pension Plans; The PBGC; And What The Heck Got Us Into This Pension Funding Mess?

You would need to be asleep at the wheel to not know we are in a pension funding crisis. Hardly a day goes by when we do not hear about a pension plan that reduces or freezes future benefit accruals to lessen its funding shortfall, or that is predicted to become insolvent in the foreseeable future notwithstanding such benefit adjustments. Participants in these underfunded plans naturally worry that they will lose their hard-earned pension benefits. If the plan is in…

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