Avoiding Common Pitfalls in Pension Plan Death Benefit Claims: Insights for Family Lawyers

A pension plan is a valuable financial resource that can provide a steady stream of income during retirement. However, many people overlook the importance of the death benefits of pension plan when they pass away. As a family lawyer, it is essential to understand the potential pitfalls involved in the pension plan death benefit claim process. 

This article will provide insights into avoiding common mistakes that can cause delays or even loss of benefits.

Pension Plan

Understanding the Types of Pension Plans:

There are two primary types of pension plans: 

  • Defined benefit plans and 
  • Defined contribution plans. 

A defined benefit plan pays a specified monthly benefit to the plan participant upon retirement. 

A defined contribution plan, on the other hand, is an individual account where the plan participant contributes a set amount of money, and the account’s value is determined by the investment returns.

Beneficiary Designations:

It is essential to review and update the beneficiary designations regularly. A beneficiary designation is a legal document that determines who will receive the death benefits of a pension plan when the plan participant passes away. If the beneficiary designation is outdated or incorrect, it can cause significant delays and even litigation.

Coordination with Estate Planning:

Pension plan death benefits can be subject to estate taxes and may impact the overall estate plan. Coordination with estate planning professionals can help ensure that the pension plan benefits are appropriately integrated into the estate plan.

Understanding the Plan Document:

Each pension plan has a plan document that outlines the specific terms and conditions of the plan. Understanding the plan document is crucial in determining the death benefit entitlements and the process for making a claim.

Deadlines for Filing Claims:

Most pension plans have specific deadlines for filing claims. It is crucial to understand the deadlines and submit the claim promptly to avoid potential delays or even loss of benefits.

Completing the Claim Form:

The claim form is a critical document that must be completed accurately and completely. Failure to provide all the required information or submitting incomplete forms can cause significant delays in the processing of the claim.

Proper Documentation:

Documentation is essential in supporting the death benefit claim. Supporting documents may include the death certificate, beneficiary designation form, marriage certificate, and birth certificate. Providing proper documentation can help speed up the claim process and avoid potential delays.

Appeals Process:

If the death benefit claim is denied, most pension plans have an appeals process. Understanding the appeals process and the specific requirements for filing an appeal can help ensure that the appeal is successful.


Death benefits of the pension plan are a valuable financial resource that can provide much-needed support to surviving beneficiaries. However, claiming these benefits can be a complicated and challenging process. If you need assistance with pension plan death benefit claims, our experienced family law team can help. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and learn more about our services. 

Don’t leave your future to chance. Let us help you secure the death benefits of the pension plan to which you are entitled.

Category:Law & Legal
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