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Copyright (c) 2010 South Texas Law Review, Inc.
South Texas Law Review

COMMENT: When Happily Ever After is Not Ever After, After All: Rectifying the Plan Documents Rule Under ERISA to Benefit the Right Person

Fall, 2010

South Texas Law Review

52 S. Tex. L. Rev. 127

Author

Teia Moore*

Excerpt



I. Introduction
 
Ken and Barbie fell hopelessly in love. They married with the intent to live happily ever after; unfortunately, that is not how the story ends. After a bitter divorce, Barbie waived her rights to Ken's retirement plan that was governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) of 1974. 1 Ken was advised by his attorney that the waiver was effective to remove Barbie as his designated beneficiary. 2 Ken later found his true love, Skipper, and they lived happily ever after until Ken's death. Ken's will left all of his property, including his retirement benefits, to Skipper. To Skipper's surprise, the retirement benefits were paid to Barbie because Ken had never changed the designated beneficiary on his employee-benefit plan documents. Skipper, who was much younger than Ken, was relying on this money to support her for her remaining years. This is the unfortunate outcome when a person does not change the designated beneficiary on their employee benefit program that is governed by ERISA. 3 Now, Ken's attorney is worried about a malpractice suit for not advising Ken to change the name on the beneficiary form, and Skipper, the intended beneficiary, is left with no money to support her. Barbie, on the other hand, is quite content. She takes the money without remorse and begins traveling the world with her new man, spending the money like a lottery winner, and cannot be found.

In a recent United States Supreme Court decision, the Court ...
 
 
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