ERISA Does Not Preempt Enforcement of Contractual Waiver of Pension; Stale Affidavit Did Not Establish Grounds for Divorce

The execution of a post-nuptial agreement as part of the divorce proceedings was an effective waiver of the right of the surviving spouse to a joint-and-survivor pension annuity, and that waiver can be enforced against the surviving spouse despite failure to comply with the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”), which otherwise preempted state law, because ERISA does not bar an estate from recovering pension funds distributed to an ex-spouse who had executed a waiver of rights to those funds.  Pa.R.C.P. 1920.42(b)(2) is a valid exercise of the rule making power of the courts, and so grounds for divorce were not established within the meaning of 23 Pa.C.S. § 3323(g) when the decedent’s affidavit of consent to the divorce was filed more than thirty days after it was executed, and the decedent’s designation of his wife as beneficiary of his life insurance was not modified by 20 Pa.C.S. § 6111.2.  Easterday Estate, 653 Pa. 143, 209 A.3d 331 (2019), aff’ng 171 A.3d 911, 2017 PA Super 315 (10/3/17), aff’ng on other grounds, 6 Fid.Rep.3d 178 (O.C. Montgomery Co. 3/22/2016).

(See the earlier reports on the decision of the Orphans’ Court. and the decision of the Superior Court.)

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