Facts of the Case
Thedecedent’s first wife made a testamentary transfer to their three sons (respondents) her portion of decedent’s undistributed retirement benefits, an individual retirement account (IRA), employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) shares, and a monthly annuity payment. The decedent however, married his second wife (petitioner), and upon his retirement, received the retirement benefits, including those which his first wife bequeathed to the respondents. Upon decedent’s death, petitioner began receiving monthly annuity payments from the company as the individual’s surviving spouse. The respondents sought to recover from the petitioner the retirement benefits, the portion of the IRA, ESOP shares, and the monthly annuity payments, while the petitioner sought determination of the parties’ rights to the benefits. The trial court granted summary judgment to respondents, and the appellate court affirmed.
“Are Karen K. Capato’s twins – conceived by in vitro fertilization after their biological father’s death – “child(ren)” under Title II of the Social Security Act?”
“Yes. In a opinion authored by Justice Anthony Kennedy, the Court ruled that the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) preempts state community-property law allowing a non-participant spouse to transfer by a testamentary instrument an interest in undistributed pension plan benefits. Justice Kennedy said “ERISA’s solicitude for the economic security of surviving spouses would be undermined” by allowing a previous spouse’s heirs to claim a share of such benefits.””
Citation: 520 US 833 (1997)
Argued: Jan 15, 1997
Decided: Jun 2, 1997
Case Brief: 1997