Is there an ex-spouse in your life? You might want to contact TRS.

Dwight named his wife, Alice, as the beneficiary of his TRS benefits in the event of his death.    Then they got divorced.  Dwight never changed the designation of his beneficiary.  Then Dwight died.   When Alice was denied the TRS benefits, she sued. 

TRS denied the benefits to Alice because of a law we have that addresses this situation.  It says that the ex-spouse does not get TRS benefits if the designation occurred while they were married, they later divorced, and TRS receives a certified copy of the divorce decree.  In other words, we have an assumption built into the law that people don’t want the ex-spouse to get their death benefits. Of course a person can override that assumption by designating the ex-spouse as beneficiary after the divorce.  No doubt some folks do that, but Dwight did not.

The very determined Alice appealed the decision to the TRS Manager of Benefits Processing, the Chief Benefits Officer, and the Deputy Director.  Denied at every stage. Then she took her appeal to an Administrative Law Judge with the State Office of Administrative Hearings. Denied.  Then it went to the TRS Board of Trustees. Nope.  Then she sued in Travis County, and lost.  Then she appealed to the Court of Appeals. No luck there either.

The point of the story today is to remind you to update your TRS info!  Since Dwight never did that, his benefits “would be issued in accordance with section 824.103 of the Texas Government Code.” Do you want some obscure section of the Government Code to decide who gets your money?  Or would you rather make that decision yourself? 

Contact TRS. Update that beneficiary designation.

The case is Jones v. TRS, decided by the Texas Court of Appeals in Austin on September 18, 2019.


Tomorrow: Toolbox Tuesday!!