Beneficiary Designations

In Becker v. Mays-Williams, 13-35069-cv, 2015 WL 348872 (9th Cir. Jan 28, 2015), the Ninth Circuit – in a matter of first impression – concluded that beneficiary designation forms were not “documents and instruments governing” an ERISA plan, as described in Section 404(a)(1)(d) of ERISA.  A participant called the plan office and telephonically re-designated his son as his beneficiary under the various plans in which he was a participant, rather than his ex-wife. 

Plaintiff Kristopher Towles, the son of a deceased participant of a life insurance plan, challenged the plan’s decision to pay the life insurance proceeds to the deceased’s husband, contending that the beneficiary form replacing him with the deceased husband had been forged.  After five attempts to state a claim, the district court dismissed the complaint