One of the more complicated aspects of estate planning is that while probate, or the process of transferring property upon a person’s death, is normally controlled by Wisconsin state law, most retirement plans are governed by federal law, specifically the Employee Retirement Security Act (ERISA). The ERISA “preempts” or overrides state law to the extent that there is a conflict between the two.
Can You Recover Pension Benefits from a Spouse You Killed?
A common estate planning consequence of the ERISA is that your will or trust does not necessarily control who is entitled to receive any benefits your retirement plan may owe you upon death. Typically, the administrator of your retirement plan will ask you sign a beneficiary designation form. That designation, and not your estate plan, dictates who gets the applicable benefits.