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401k Plan corporate 401k plan 401k Rules

Chapter 9: Protecting Your Benefits In The Event Of Plan Termination or Merger

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Corporate and Institutional Investors


These questions are addressed:
What happens with plan termination?

What happens if your plan terminates without enough money to pay the benefits?
Which benefits are guaranteed?


Is your accrued benefit protected if your plan merges with another plan?

What happens with plan termination?

Although retirement plans must be established with the intention of being continued indefinitely, employers may terminate plans. If your plan terminates or becomes insolvent, ERISA provides some protection. In a tax-qualified plan, your accrued benefit must become 100 percent vested immediately upon plan termination, to the extent then funded. If a partial termination occurs in such a plan, for example, if your employer closes a particular plant or division that results in the termination of a substantial portion of plan participants, immediate 100 percent vesting, to the extent funded, also is required for affected employees.

What happens if your plan terminates without enough money to pay the benefits?
Which benefits are guaranteed?

If your terminated plan is a defined benefit plan insured by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, the PBGC will guarantee the payment of your vested pension benefits up to the limits set by law. Benefits that are guaranteed or that exceed PBGC's limits may be paid depending on the plan's funding and on whether PBGC is able to recover additional amounts from the employer. For further information on plan termination guarantees, write to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, Administrative Review and Technical Assistance Department, 1200 K Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20005, telephone 202.326.4000. If a plan terminates and the plan purchases annuity contracts from an insurance company to pay benefits in the future, plan fiduciaries must take certain steps to select the safest available annuity. Thus, in accordance with Department of Labor guidance, the plan must conduct a thorough search with respect to the financial soundness of insurance companies that provide annuities, to better assure the future payment of benefits to participants and beneficiaries.

Is your accrued benefit protected if your plan merges with another plan?

Your employer may choose to merge your plan with another plan. If your plan is terminated as a result of the merger, the benefit you would be entitled to receive after the merger must be at least equal to the benefit you were entitled to receive before the merger. Special rules apply to mergers of multiemployer plans, which are generally under the jurisdiction of the PBGC.

Source: Department of Labor

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