Can a court, carrying out the terms of a will, control the disposition of a non-probate asset? A recent federal case explains that non-probate assets are not controlled by the terms of a will, even if the will explicitly attempts to dispose of the asset. Instead, if the non probate asset has a beneficiary designation, that beneficiary designation will control the disposition of the asset.
ERISA is a federal statutory system that governs most corporate retirement plans. At the heart of the operation of an ERISA- governed plan is the concept of the “plan documents.” In a case of first impression, a Federal Court of Appeals holds that beneficiary designation forms are not plan documents, thereby directing the plan administrator to potentially disregard a signed beneficiary designation form in favor of an ex-wife, allowing for the possibility that a telephonic attempt to change the beneficiary to the decedent’s son could control.
All too often pension-plan participants (employees and retirees) are left in the dark about the fees and expenses associated with the mutual funds selected for their company’s plan, whether it is a 401(k) savings plan or otherwise. Unlike general market fluctuations, employers can control these fees and expenses. In fact, the exercise of such control is required under federal law.