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Same-Sex Spouses and Retirement Plans

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It is now legal for same-sex spouses to marry in California, but there are still several issues of marriages of this nature that can make things complicated. The Department of Labor has adopted the same approach as other federal agencies regarding how same-sex couples should be treated. As a result, it is essential that same-sex couples take a very close look at who they have named as beneficiaries on their retirement accounts. This should be done for every account that requires a beneficiary designation.

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act

This is because the Department of Labor oversees company-sponsored retirement plans covered by the ERISA of 1974. This act governs all 401(k) accounts, all 457, all 403(b) accounts, and all profit-sharing and defined benefit retirement plans. The ERISA mandates that an employee's spouse be the primary beneficiary of any of these accounts if the individual is married. The ERISA is also in charge of all welfare plans that include dental, health, and life benefits for recipients.

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court determined that it was unconstitutional to define marriage as between a man and a woman. This left administrators looking for guidance about how to distribute retirement assets to couples that are both of the same gender. The case was recently decided by the U.S. District Court for Eastern Pennsylvania.

Now, the Department of Labor has determined that retirement plans that are covered by ERISA must interpret spouse to mean any individuals that are lawfully married under any state law. This includes people that may be married to a person of the same-sex but are living in a state that does not recognize same sex marriage.

The DOL has made a distinction showing that domestic partnerships are not included in the ERISA because the couple is not legally married.

Get More Information from a Los Angeles Divorce Lawyer

If you want more information about how your retirement plans will be affected as a result of the ERISA and the DOL, then a Los Angeles family lawyer at Claery & Hammond, LLP can help to clarify things for you. The attorneys at this firm are compassionate and caring and are supportive to all couple seeking legal advice. Contact Claery & Hammond, LLPfor assistance today!


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