By Roy Larsen, CFP®, AAMS®
Q: Can I receive my deceased mother's pension?
My mother just passed away at age 69. She was supposed to receive her pension starting at age 70 1/2. The company says it is only allowed to go to a surviving spouse (which there is none) and that I have no claim to her pension. That's not what my mother understood. Days before she passed away, she mentioned to her best friend that should anything happen to her, to make sure I got her pension.
A: First very sorry for your loss. I will try to offer some helpful information but without knowing the whole story, it is difficult to surmise what may have happened here. If this is a true defined benefit pension plan, every company will have their own rules for how it pays out funds. I would first suggest getting a copy of the company’s retiree benefit package to review their policies and procedures.
Next, I would try to get a copy of Mom’s beneficiary designation form. I am assuming your Mom was retired and if so, she would have completed how she wanted to receive her pension. Some common choices include Life only, Joint, Lump sum, Period Certain. Typically, the choice you request will determine if you want more now or a lesser amount for various guaranteed periods.
It is not uncommon to have a retiree not understand the options and their implications or remember which one was chosen. I’m not saying that happened here but it is possible when lump sum is not chosen, for benefits to cease at the death of an employee or spouse. There is typically not a fall back of “everything goes to the kids” if no one is left to get a check. That is often the trade off when choosing these defined payout options.
If you are able to gather the documents I recommended, and feel you still have a case, you may want to research and perhaps reach out to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. http://www.pbgc.gov/home.html They are a government agency that protects the rights of workers and provides tons of useful information in knowing what is permitted.
I wish you luck
Roy Larsen, CFP®, AAMS® is a Fee Only Certified Financial Planner practitioner and acknowledged fiduciary. He works with clients in the Gainesville, GA. area outside of Atlanta and throughout the United States. Larsen Wealth Management specialized in the distribution phase of retirement or your version of chapter two. Roy has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal as well as the New York Times and has won the 5-Star Professional award for 6 consecutive years as one of the top Wealth Managers in Atlanta. Roy can be reached at 678-696-8755 or roylarsen @investinretirement.net.
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Roy Larsen is a Certified Financial Planner™ practitioner and Fee Only Wealth Manager who resides outside of Atlanta, Georgia.
Roy's Financial Blog contains articles on multiple financial life events as well as his favorite questions from he receives from around the country as a an expert panel member for Investopedia's Advisor Insights.