Michael G. Putter Attorney at Law
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Consent required when changing retirement account beneficiary

Retirement accounts are some of the biggest benefits of employment. Many companies will do all they can to match the contributions of their employees into retirement accounts. Some will go above matching the contributions as a way of enticing candidates to accept job offers. Let's take a look at how you can change the beneficiary of a retirement account in today's post.

Any changes made to a retirement account require the consent of the spouse in order to make those changes. You cannot change a beneficiary or payment option without a spouse's written consent. This was written into law back in 1984 under the Retirement Equity Act. Other rules pertaining to pensions were written in the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) back in 1974. The Retirement Equity Act (REA) was an amendment to ERISA.

Even though these are the laws, the overall guidelines regarding spousal consent can vary from retirement account to retirement account. It all depends on the policies of your account and what actions must be taken before changing a beneficiary or payment method.

If you have a defined-benefit plan, you always need the written consent of a spouse before making a change in beneficiaries. Defined-contribution plans require a spouse's written consent in certain circumstances.

The consent comes in the form of the spouse signing the document. It must be witnessed by a notary or a representative of the retirement account.

Changing the beneficiary of a retirement account is not easy, and it cannot be done on your own. Getting the consent of your spouse in order to make the change must be done when he or she is the beneficiary named on the account paperwork.

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