Historic Provisions for GLBT Families Signed Into Law TODAY!
By Human Rights CampaignWorking without fanfare and very closely with members of Congress for more than three years, the Human Rights Campaign secured two important protections that assist gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans in the Pension Protection Act signed into law on Aug. 17, 2006. The act includes provisions allowing non-spouse beneficiaries to roll over retirement benefits, and adding non-spouse beneficiaries to the retirement plan hardship distribution rules. The two provisions extend important financial protections to same-sex couples and other Americans who name non-spouses as their retirement plan beneficiaries.
Allowing Non-spouse Beneficiaries to Rollover Pension Funds (Sec. 829)
The first provision allows the transfer of an individual's retirement plan (401(k), etc,) benefits to a domestic partner or other non-spouse beneficiary (sibling, parent, child, etc.) when the individual dies. Specifically, the surviving partner (or other non-spouse beneficiary) will now be able to transfer his or her deceased partner’s retirement funds into an Individual Retirement Account and either draw down the benefits over a five-year period, or over his or her own life expectancy. In the past, surviving same-sex partners and other non-spouse beneficiaries were typically forced to withdraw the entire amount as a lump sum and incur immediate tax charges. In addition, this action often bumped the survivor into a higher tax bracket because the withdrawal was counted as taxable income to the beneficiary.
Adding Non-Spouse Beneficiaries to Retirement Plan Hardship Distribution Rules (Sec. 826)
The second provision, which addresses retirement plan hardship distributions, allows gay couples (and others who list non-spouse, non-dependent beneficiaries, such as siblings, parents, children, etc.) similar access to laws that permit people to draw on their retirement funds in the case of a qualifying medical or financial emergency. In the past, the federal law covered only the spouses or dependents of employees when it came to accessing retirement funds during an emergency.