New Hampshire divorce lawyers

Negotiating Survivor Annuities

New Hampshire Divorce Lawyers Discuss Negotiating Survivor Annuities

New Hampshire divorce lawyersAccording to New Hampshire divorce attorney Michaila M. Oliveira at the Law Office of Manning & Zimmerman PLLC, New Hampshire case law gives concrete guidance on how to divide vested retirement benefits, including pensions, 401Ks, IRAs, and other retirement assets in the event of divorce. But what about those optional additional benefits that may be offered as part of a spouse’s retirement plan but may not be included in the valuation of the retirement asset for purposes of judicial division? Often these provide a benefit that can be negotiated into a divorce – either as a voluntary benefit provided to the former spouse or in exchange for some other asset/benefit.

Survivor annuities are one of the optional benefits that may be offered as part of an employee retirement plan. The importance of such a benefit is often only clear long after a divorce is finalized.  Survivor annuities are a benefit that allows a designated survivor to receive a monthly benefit equal to a defined percentage of an employee’s pension after the employee has died. The designated survivor then receives this benefit until his/her own death.

Generally, when an employer offers a survivor annuity as part of an employee’s retirement benefits package, the employee must actively “elect” or choose to purchase the annuity option. Often, election is done at the time of retirement, however, this is not true of all survivor annuities, particularly the annuity available to US military members. Survivor annuities generally come with a separate monetary cost.

The most important practical consideration for dealing with survivor annuities in a divorce is that the annuity, almost universally among the all of the particular benefit plans available, must specifically be addressed in the Decree of Divorce. If the annuity is not addressed within the Decree, then it may be near impossible for a surviving former spouse to collect the benefit – even if the parties planned for that to happen.

Below is a description of three of the more common survivor annuities that may be encountered in a New Hampshire divorce:

Federal Employees
Eligible federal government employees have the option to elect to purchase the FERS survivor annuity. There are two levels of FERS annuities – the full survivor annuity and the reduced survivor annuity.  While the term “full” survivor annuity would lead one to believe that the surviving present or former spouse would receive 100% of the employee’s pension, that is incorrect. The full annuity, at the time this article was published, pays 50% of the employee’s pension to their designated survivor after the employee’s death. The cost to elect this full survivor annuity is 10% of the employee’s pension payment per month from the date of retirement through the date of death. The reduced annuity pays 25% of the employee’s pension. The cost to elect the reduced survivor annuity is 5% of the employee’s pension payment per month from the date of retirement through the date of death. If the employee is married at the time of election, the employee will need his/her spouse’s written permission to choose anything other than the full annuity.

Federal employees may also elect not to purchase any of the FERS survivor annuity options. Again, if the employee is married at the time of election, the employee will need his/her spouse’s written permission to choose this option. An important consideration when choosing to purchase any of the FERS survivor annuities is that, after the employee’s death, if the designated surviving spouse is not receiving a survivor annuity benefit then they will not be eligible for FEHB health insurance.

State Employees
Eligible New Hampshire state government employees have the option to select a reduced pension under a “Survivorship Option” to provide a lifetime pension to a designated survivor. An employee may designate a single beneficiary or multiple beneficiaries, although this option is limited to the employee’s spouse and children. In the case of multiple designated beneficiaries, the employee must specify a distribution percentage for each beneficiary on the retirement application. Cost-wise, the amount of the reduction in the member’s retirement pension will depend on a number of factors.

State employees have a number of different survivor annuity options available to them, with police and fire employees having their own additional options beyond those available to all employees.

Of the common survivor annuity programs described in this article, the New Hampshire Retirement System has the most options available and accordingly the most variability in potential value for a former spouse.

US Military
The Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) is the survivor annuity associated with military retired pay. If the service member or retiree dies first, the spouse or former spouse survivor is eligible to receive 55% of the selected base amount (usually the full pension) for the remainder of his or her life.

A major issue attorneys negotiating SBP benefits should be aware of is the Former Spouse SBP deadline. To effectuate coverage, the service member or retiree must file a DD Form 2656-1 with the Defense Finance and Accounting Service retired pay center within one year of the order which awards the SBP (typically the Decree of Divorce).

The New Hampshire divorce lawyers at Manning & Zimmerman Law will also consider the issue of remarriage. If the former spouse has any plans for remarriage (or even if they don’t have such plans at the time of the divorce), be sure to remind him/her about the “remarriage penalty.” Remarriage of the former spouse before he/she turns 55 suspends his/her SBP coverage. Coverage can be reinstated, however, if the remarriage ends under certain conditions.

For the service member spouse, if the former spouse is alive and set to receive SBP benefits per the parties’ Decree of Divorce, then if the service member remarries, the service member cannot elect any SBP coverage for their new spouse. If the former spouse is alive at the time of the service member’s remarriage, but the former spouse’s benefit is suspended due to his or her own remarriage, then the service member may only obtain eligibility to make a new SBP election by returning to court to obtain a modification of the prior court order requiring SBP coverage.

The New Hampshire divorce lawyers at Manning & Zimmerman Law handling divorces where survivor annuities may be an issue will be sure to research the particular requirements of the issuing employer before entering into any agreements regarding those annuities. The particular language used in the Decree of Divorce may be the difference between a surviving former spouse successfully collecting the survivor annuity and their claim being denied by the issuing employer.

Contact the New Hampshire divorce lawyers at Manning & Zimmerman Law

The New Hampshire divorce lawyers at Manning & Zimmerman Law would be pleased to discuss your matter with you and be your partner throughout the process. Our firm is experienced and prepared to deal with any situation that may arise. For a free consultation, please feel free to call us at (603) 210-4464, send us an email to info@MZLawNH.com, or reach out to us using the “contact us” or chat feature on our website.

Experienced • Knowledgeable • Committed to Justice

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The New Hampshire divorce lawyers at Manning & Zimmerman Law invite you to subscribe to our newsletter. You can also follow us on Twitter.

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New Hampshire Injury Lawyers: Protecting Civil Justice

Profit Motive Fuels Attack on Civil Justice Protections in 2017

Advocates for individual rights, including the New Hampshire injury lawyers at Manning & Zimmerman Law,  might someday call 2017 The Year of Reversal for an unprecedented number of attacks on America’s civil justice system. Pick your poison, for examples:

      • The rollback of restrictions on forced arbitration
      • Passage of legislation that will weaken protections against medical malpractice and nursing home abuse
      • A slew of proposed “tort reform” measures

      At the root of these initiatives is corporate profits rather than the safety and legal rights of all Americans. Here’s a closer look:

      Forced Arbitration Is Forced Injustice

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      Forced arbitration clauses, now used in a wide range of product, service, and employment contracts, prevent a wronged party from bringing a case to court. Instead, the dispute must be settled in secret arbitrations, usually by an arbitrator chosen by the defendant. These clauses often ban class-action lawsuits as well. Such lawsuits are used by thousands of consumers to hold major companies accountable for illegal or deceitful behavior. Think Wells Fargo charging millions of customers for accounts they didn’t open, for example. Or the recent Equifax data breach that exposed 143 million people to identity theft and fraud.

      Following a comprehensive, multiyear study, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) issued a rule banning financial institutions like credit card companies and banks from adding forced arbitration clauses to customer contracts. However, in October the Senate voted to overturn this rule, giving big financial corporations the upper hand when customers are ripped off.

      Forced arbitration clauses buried in employment contracts also keep employees from suing, in some instances, for discrimination, sexual assault and harassment, and workplace safety concerns. An executive order called the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces rule prohibited these clauses in federal contracts. But in March this rule was eliminated, compromising workplace protections and denying 28 million American workers their day in court if wronged on the job.

      Medical Malpractice Caps Penalize Injured Patients and Families

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      An estimated 200,000 to 400,000 people die each year from preventable medical errors. Patients are injured or killed by mistakes at hospitals, clinics, pharmacies, and nursing homes, or by faulty medical devices. Many victims of medical malpractice have little choice but to retain the New Hampshire injury lawyers at Manning & Zimmerman Law to take those responsible to court to receive some semblance of justice. But a bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives was passed earlier this year that will cap medical malpractice damages at $250,000. That’s a slap in the face for those who have suffered extreme trauma or loss. It makes it clear that some members of Congress will only protect insurance companies and negligent healthcare providers. They should instead protect injured people.

      “Tort Reform” Will Delay and Deny Justice

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      Several other attacks on civil justice were launched this past year under the guise of “tort reform.” This is a phrase used by corporations and their allies to justify measures that would curtail access to the courts. It is also intended to reduce compensation to injury victims. One such bill, H.R. 725, would allow corporate defendants to move cases from qualified state courts into overburdened federal courts, resulting in delays and increased costs to plaintiffs and taxpayers. Another bill, H.R. 985, will “shield powerful corporations from being held accountable from scamming, injuring and discriminating against Americans” by limiting the ability of consumers and workers to join together in class action suits. One part of this bill even forces asbestos victims to add their private information to publicly accessible databases. This furthers their victimization and makes them vulnerable to identity theft and online trolls.

      According to the New Hampshire injury lawyers at Manning & Zimmerman Law, both of these anti-safety, anti-consumer bills passed the House and are now before the Senate.

      Contact Experienced New Hampshire Injury Lawyers for a Free Consultation

      Have you or a loved one been injured by another person’s careless acts? If so, it is essential that you have competent legal representation from the onset of your case through litigation. Big insurance companies have lawyers looking out for their interests and you should too!

      For a free consultation, contact the Manchester injury attorneys at the Law Office of Manning & Zimmerman PLLC. We may be reached at (603) 239-2315, by email at info@MZLawNH.com, or by using the “contact us” or chat feature on our website.

      Experienced.  Knowledgeable.  Personally Committed to Justice.

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Dog Bites Can Be Prevented With Better Education

Manchester dog bite lawyersDogs, we love them! They are many times our closest companions and considered one of the family. Many of us at Manning & Zimmerman Law are dog owners – and dog lovers! But any dog can be territorial and unpredictable when it feels threatened or when defending puppies, owners or food. “Our dog has never bitten anyone before” is a common refrain heard by those responding to dog bite situations.

The numbers tell the story. More than 4.5 million people are bitten each year in the United States. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), one in five require medical attention. Half of the victims are children and are far more likely to be injured. The Insurance Information Institute also reports that the number of dog bite claims is on the rise, accounting for more than one-third of all homeowners insurance claims paid in 2013, or $483.7 million nationwide.

How to Avoid a
Dog Bite

First of all, assume any dog can bite, not just breeds often thought to be more aggressive. Always be cautious around strange dogs, respecting their space especially when sleeping, eating or chewing on a toy.  Other important tips:

    • Never leave a baby or small child alone with a dog. Teach them to be cautious around pets and ask first before approaching a dog.
    • Pay attention to a dog’s body language, looking for cues that it might be uncomfortable like a tensed body, stiff tail, pulled-back head or ears, yawning and intense staring.
    • If it looks like a dog might attack, resist the impulse to scream or run away. Stay motionless with your hands at your side. Once the dog loses interest, slowly back away.
    • If the dog does attack, “feed” it your jacket, hat, purse or anything else you can put between you and the dog. If you fall, curl into a ball and lay as still as possible with your hands over your head and neck.
    • After a dog bite, immediately wash the wound with soap and warm water. Seek medical attention as soon as possible and then report the bite to your local animal control agency.

For more information, download this brochure from the AVMA.

Be a Responsible Dog Owner

According to the Manchester dog bite lawyers at Manning & Zimmerman Law, there is a lot you can do as an owner to ensure that your dog doesn’t bite anyone. Not only is it the right thing to do, but it is also your obligation under state and local law. Start by consulting a veterinarian on suitable dogs for your household. Then consider these tips:

    • Because so many dog bites happen to young children, you might want to wait until your children are 4 years old or older before bringing home a dog.
    • Socialize your pet as a puppy so it feels at ease around people and other animals.
    • Train your dog on basic commands like “sit,” “stay,” “no” and “come” to build a bond of obedience and trust. It is also important to exercise and spend time with your dog as dogs left alone too much can develop behavioral problems.
    • Keep your dog healthy and feeling well with all required vaccinations. Neutering your pet can also lessen aggression.
    • Follow the rules by licensing your dog and obeying leash laws.

Contact Experienced Manchester Dog Bite Lawyers for a Free Consultation

If you or a loved one have suffered a dog bite, contact the Manchester dog bite lawyers at the Law Office of Manning & Zimmerman PLLC. We may be reached at (603) 210-4464, by email at info@MZLawNH.com, or by using the “contact us” or chat feature on our website.

If you or a loved one have been injured by another person’s careless acts, it is essential that you have competent legal representation from the onset of your case through litigation. Big insurance companies have lawyers looking out for their interests and you should too!

The Manchester dog bite lawyers at Manning & Zimmerman Law invite you to subscribe to our newsletter. We are also on Facebook and you can follow us on Twitter.

Experienced.  Knowledgeable.  Personally Committed to Justice.