My father in law passed away a few days ago. He is part of the carpenter's union, and his beneficiary is entitled a fairly large sum for his pension IRA. He was not married, but he listed his girlfriend as his beneficiary. He has 2 children (his son/my husband, and a daughter), and neither were listed as beneficiaries. I have heard that this can be contested so that the children are guaranteed some of the pension. Especially since his current beneficiary is neither a blood relative, nor married to him. Is that correct? And what is the process for doing so?
Thank you for you time
I do not believe so. Pension benefits are not an inheritance. They are a contract with the pension provider. I do not know of any pension that requires an employee to name any beneficiary other than a spouse. Your only option would be if you could prove that your father-in-law was not capable of making decisions when he named his girlfriend as a beneficiary, such as if he had dementia.
In order to invalidate the beneficiary designation, you would need to prove, in court, that the beneficiary exercised "undue influence" on your father in law to get him to name her as beneficiary. This would involve filing a lawsuit against the named beneficiary and the company holding the funds. These cases are very fact specific, so you need to consult with an attorney. Do so sooner rather than later, and preferably before the beneficiary claims the funds.
The contract with carpenter's union (their pension provider) supercedes any provisions in your father-in-law's will (assuming that he had a will). Thus, if there is any cause of action for fraud, duress, coercion, or undue influence by the girlfriend, or that he lacked the requisite capacity to designate his girlfriend at the time he did so - the cause of action would be in the Court of Common Pleas (and not the Probate Court).
If, however, your father-in-law knowingly and willingly designated his girlfriend as the beneficiary on his pension, there is no cause of action. That is, there is no law in Ohio that provides that your husband or his sister are entitled to any part of the pension unless they were so designated by their father.
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