How do you Change Benificiaries on a Pension?

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“My husband retired from a CA police department. Shortly afterwards he and his wife of 30 years divorced. She got half his pension, rightly so. She passed away two years later due to alcoholism and left her half of his pension to their son who is 45 years old. The son gave his father a certified letter requesting the return of his inherited half of the pension back to his father. The retirement board refused to acknowledge the letter and return the pension. Apparently, the pensions are never returned to the police officers. The same police officers who work for 30 years for those pensions in order to be able to survive retirement.

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Once the pension is split with the spouse that spouse is free to will them to whomever they choose and this includes a bum off the street or any criminal they may decide to give the police officers pension to. I understand that this procedure was upheld by the California State court. How is that even possible? How can they refuse to return the pension once the spouse has passed away and how could they refuse to honor his sons legal request to return it. In fact, they started sending the check to his son. To add insult to injury, the son has a drug problem that was exacerbated by the money.

Included in this policy is as a second wife I don’t even receive my husbands half of the pension to support me when he dies. His son will continue to receive money after his father death and can will it to whomever he chooses?

This is really a travesty. Is there any legal remedy for the police officers subjected to this ridiculous policy?”

A Court order divided the pension in the first place. It may need another Court order for the son to give up the benefit he is receiving. A certified letter is probably not going to do it.

To the extent pension benefits can be disposed of by will, your husband should be able to leave whatever he is trying to will to you. I say to the extent they can be disposed of by will as some benefits die with the beneficiary. I am not sure why you would not be able to receive the remainder of your husband’s pension, but there generally are forms that can be submitted to pension group (Calpers?) to change the beneficiary for the death benefit.

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Author: House Attorney

A house attorney has answered this question.

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