December 6, 2010

New Caselaw – PERS benefit estimates

When PERS retirement benefits are being divided in a divorce there are at least two issues that the divorcing spouse needs to be aware of:

1.  You cannot rely on a PERS benefit estimate created by PERS.  The court of appeals ruled on this issue on December 1, 2010 in the Bell v. PERB case.  The opinion can be found here:  We always advise our clients to employ independent actuaries and/or financial advisors and/or accountants in order to verify that the PERS benefits are correct especially when they are not split 50/50 in a dissolution.  A related issue is that the benefit in the hands of the non-PERS spouse has a different value than the value in the hands of the PERS spouse. It is crucial that your divorce attorney is aware of both of these issues.

2.  PERS beneficiary designations are not immediately changed by a divorce judgment.  Unless you change your PERS beneficiary designation, your benefits upon death will be awarded to your ex-spouse (if he or she was the designated beneficiary).  Sometimes this is intentional, but it is often not.