As we head into the thick of summer, all eyes are on President Trump’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy and the impact the new Justice will have on shaping the law for generations to come. We think it’s a good bet that not everyone is as focused on a recent benefits decision from Seventh Circuit involving slayers, pension benefits, beneficiaries, and the ultimate question of who gets the money! Nevertheless, for ERISA practitioners and plan administrators, the Seventh Circuit’s decision is interesting and should be taken note of. It is a good reminder that, while clear plan language and properly executed beneficiary designations can help minimize the risk of litigation involving competing beneficiaries, it is not foolproof because there are some public policy concerns that may override even the best-written plan terms. In Laborers’ Pension Fund v. Miscevic, 880 F.3d 927 (7th Cir. 2018), a federal Court of Appeals for the first time considered whether an individual who was the designated beneficiary of a plan participant she killed was precluded from receiving the decedent’s pension benefit. As the article below discusses, the Court concluded that ERISA does not preempt a state slayer statute that prohibits killers from benefitting from their crimes.
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