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Death Benefit To Niece Or Spouse?

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a participant in a small 403(b) recently passed away with a balance of appx $18K. He was married last fall and passed away in March. In the 90's, he completed a designation of beneficiary naming his niece as beneficiairy. he did not fill out a new one when he married last fall having his wife waive benefits in the presence of a notary. His spouse automatically became beneficiary when they married and obtained a license, yes?

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Guest Joel L Frank

a participant in a small 403(b) recently passed away with a balance of appx $18K. He was married last fall and passed away in March. In the 90's, he completed a designation of beneficiary naming his niece as beneficiairy. he did not fill out a new one when he married last fall having his wife waive benefits in the presence of a notary. His spouse automatically became beneficiary when they married and obtained a license, yes?

No. Under ERISA a spouse is the primary beneficiary provided he/she did not waive his/her spousal rights. You assert that the spouse waived her benefits---that being the case, his niece is the primary beneficiary.

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Actually I stated that the participant did NOT have a new beneficiary form waiving spousal rights. I believe ERISA 205 provided the answer I was looking for. Thanks for your reply nevertheless.

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Guest Joel L Frank

Sorry for the misunderstanding on my part. The spousal waiver was not filed. Thus, as a matter of law, the spouse is automatically the beneficiary, notwithstanding the fact that the niece is the named beneficiary.

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