The decedent’s ex-wife filed a claim against the estate to collect unpaid benefits awarded to her in their divorce. The divorce decree entered into by the decedent and his ex-wife on October 30, 1990, provided that the ex-wife would receive 30% of the decedent’s “net monthly [Tennessee Valley Authority (“TVA”) Financed Pension.” The divorce decree also provided that the ex-wife would “have no claim against the estate of [the decedent] and all payment stops at [the decedent’s] death.”
After the divorce, the ex-wife began receiving monthly payments of $210 in order to satisfy the judgment. By 2006, the decedent’s TVA included a pension benefit and a supplemental pension benefit, totaling $2062.10, 30% of which was $618, but the ex-wife continued to receive only $210.
The decedent died on May 3, 2015, and the ex-wife timely filed her claim against the decedent’s estate on June 15, 2015. The parties agreed that the ten year statute of limitations barred recovery of amounts due before May 2005.
The Court interpreted the language of the divorce decree, finding that the ex-wife had no claim to survivor benefits, but that she did have the right to recover her pro rata share of the benefits that accrued prior to the decedent’s death.
Further, the divorce decree provided that the pension benefits portion of the divorce decree was intended to be a qualified domestic relations order (“QDRO”). But, the divorce decree was not approved by the plan administrator as a QDRO. The Court indicated that had the divorce decree been approved, the appropriate payments would have been made directly to the ex-wife and the current controversy would not have arisen.
In re Estate of Milford Cleo Todd, No. W2018-01088-COA-R3-CV. Filed Mar. 5, 2019.