Plan Administrator's Guide

Importance of Written QDRO Procedures | Receipt of an Executed QDRO
Timing Requirements for Determining Qualified Status of an Order
Segregation of Plan Benefits While QDRO Process Is Pending | When an Order Does Not Qualify as a QDRO
Once a QDRO is Qualified | What if the Participant Dies Before the Order is Qualified?
What Happens if the Alternate Payee Dies?

What if the Participant Dies Before the Order is Qualified?

In some cases, the plan participant may die after the order has been signed by the judge but before it is officially approved by the plan administrator. This is certainly a gray area in the absence of QDRO regulations. If the QDRO otherwise qualifies and includes appropriate survivorship protection for the alternate payee, it makes sense for the plan administrator to approve the order and provide the alternate payee with the called-for survivor benefits. On the other hand, if the QDRO would have been rejected for a number of deficiencies, this poses another problem. Should the plan administrator allow the alternate payee to get an amended QDRO to cure the deficiencies, even though the participant has just died? There is no right answer to this question. The plan administrator should weigh the value of any potential survivor annuity against the cost of potential litigation. The plan administrator should adopt some uniform and consistent policies regarding the death of the plan participant before the QDRO is approved.