Retirement Benefits for Same-Sex Married Couples

The U.S. Supreme Court's landmark decisions in United States v. Windsor and Obergefell v. Hodges made same-sex marriages legal nationwide, and ensured that those marriages would enjoy the same rights and benefits bestowed by state and federal law on traditional marriages. As a legally married same-sex spouse, you'll want to be aware of several retirement plan rules that apply specifically to married individuals.

Beneficiary rights

If you participate in a 401(k) or similar plan at work, federal law provides that your spouse is automatically the beneficiary of your account in the event of your death. You can name someone else as beneficiary, but only if your spouse agrees in writing (witnessed by a plan representative or notary public). Special rules apply if your plan pays benefits in the form of an annuity.

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