Is the Former or Most Recent Wife Entitled to a Deceased Husband's Pension?


Quick Answer

The former spouse of a deceased person may be entitled to pension benefits if the pension is subject to the Employment Retirement Security Act. Under ERISA, an ex-spouse can receive pension benefits as part of a divorce settlement. Benefits go to the current spouse if legal requirements are not met.

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Full Answer

The surviving spouse of a deceased pensioner has the right to collect pension benefits for private pensions that fall under the federal ERISA law. In cases where the employee has both an ex-partner and a current partner at the time of death, the law takes under consideration an ex-spouse's divorce agreement regarding any rights to survivor pension benefits. In some cases, survivor's benefits are lost as a result of the divorce, meaning the current spouse automatically receives benefits. In other cases, the ex-spouse has a claim on survivor benefits when a Qualified Domestic Relations Order is in place.

When pension benefits are awarded in a settlement, there are certain conditions that an ex-spouse must meet to legally claim survivor pension benefits over a current spouse. For instance, the ex-spouse must follow all legal procedures in a timely manner, including informing pension administrators of any claims to benefits before they are paid. A court may decide in favor of awarding benefits to the most recent spouse if the ex-spouse fails to adhere to ERISA requirements.

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