Do I have a right to my father’s pension?

Ask NJMoneyHelp

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Q. My parents divorced in 1993, the QDRO was approved and filed in 1995, and my mother passed in 1999. I am my mother’s executor and the sole beneficiary. The QDRO says my mother gets half of my father’s General Electric (GE) pension when he starts collecting. Do I have a right to the pension?
— Daughter

A. We’re sorry to hear about your mother.

Let’s explore this issue, but upfront, we have to say our advice has to be more general in nature. Without seeing the actual Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO), and without knowing if GE was ever served with the QDRO, we can’t say for sure.

Pension plans are complicated in that they are a monthly benefit promised to an employee at the time of retirement, payable over the employee’s lifetime, said Judith Deer, an attorney with All Pro QDRO in Livingston.

Pensions do not provide an endless stream of payment, but rather, are finite, Deer said.

“Pension are inalienable, not subject to judgments or creditors except in the instance of a QDRO,” Deer said. “Under federal law, the only person able to attach another person’s pension is a qualified alternate payee – spouse, former spouse or dependent child.”

Deer said a QDRO must be filed with the court and served on the pension plan in order for an alternate payee to receive a distribution from the pension.

In most instances, payment to the alternate payee is also based upon the alternate payee’s lifetime, however, there are various forms of QDROs which have varying provisions, she said.

“My gut instinct is that you will not be able to receive any part of this pension,” Deer said, noting she would need to see the actual documents to know for certain.

But there is a chance, so your best course of action would be to have a professional review the documents and also contact GE’s benefits department to see if you have a beneficiary right for your mother’s share of the pension.

Email your questions to moc.p1545138311leHye1545138311noMJN1545138311@ksA1545138311.