Avoid Seeing Your Pension Rights Go By the Wayside

Attorney representation in Atlanta, Georgia since the seventies

You’ve worked many years to accrue a pension, so why would you let someone take it away from you? Social Security is not enough to live comfortably.  Having access to a pension following retirement can make a big difference.

One important thing to understand about the laws governing pensions is that the plan is a legal contract.   The terms of the contract govern what you are entitled to receive when you retire.  There is no federal or state “law” that says exactly what or how much you are entitled to.  You must have a copy of the Summary Plan Description (or SPD) (which you should have received from your employer), or you must request from the employer a copy of the Plan itself, or at least the parts of the plan which outline eligibility for receiving a pension.  Try to have that information prior to making an appointment to consult with an attorney.

Another important distinction is the difference between pension plans and 401(k) plans. Pensions are monthly payments which the company pays you until your death (and in some cases your spouse until his/her death).  The money that you receive comes from the pension fund, not from your personal savings account.   Sometimes there is a separate death benefit that will go to the retiree’s children, but often there is none.  All benefits stop as of the date of death of the retiree.

A 401(k) plan, on the other hand, is an employee’s personal savings account.  Sometimes the employer will match an employee’s contributions, but at retirement, the entire account belongs to the employee. 

Sometimes there is confusion because a company will have changed their pension and retirement plans during the years the person is employed.  So an employee can be covered by a pension for a certain number of years of employment, and also have a 401(k) plan that was started by the employer after the employee had been employed for years.

If you need trouble figuring out whether your former employer’s calculations are correct regarding your retirement benefits, give us a call.  We can assist you in not only fighting for your deserved pension, and making sure you get what you are entitled to.

In meeting with a pension lawyer in the Atlanta area, be sure to provide him or her with any paperwork from your records and/or company officials indicating the language of the plan in question;
If you need legal help, don’t wait too late to act.

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