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In re Campbell

May 15, 2008

IN THE MATTER OF JAMES CAMPBELL, PERS #637350.


On appeal from the Board of Trustees, Public Employees' Retirement System, Department of Treasury.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE COMMITTEE ON OPINIONS

Argued: April 16, 2008

Before Judges Lisa and Simonelli.

Appellant the Estate of James Campbell (Estate) appeals from the May 17, 2007 Final Administrative Determination of respondent Division of Pensions and Benefits (Division), Board of Trustees (Board) of the Public Employees' Retirement System (PERS). We affirm.

I.

On June 1, 1983, James Campbell (James) began working for the Jersey City Housing Authority (Housing Authority) and became a member of PERS. On June 24, 1983, James executed a PERS enrollment application (the application) designating his then wife, Mary Campbell (Mary), and his mother, Geneva Campbell (Geneva), as beneficiaries of his death benefits. The application provided that upon the policyholder's death, the named beneficiaries would "[s]hare and share alike, survivor or survivors."

James and Mary divorced in 1992. Mary died on October 18, 1996. James married Rose Campbell (Rose) on August 14, 1994. James died on October 28, 2005. Rose claims that James submitted a change of beneficiary form to the Housing Authority designating her as the sole beneficiary of his death benefits.

The Estate's attorney, Neil E. Brunson, Esq. (Brunson), acting on Rose's behalf, contacted the Division about James' death benefits. The Division advised Brunson that Rose was not the designated beneficiary and that the Division had not received a change of beneficiary form. Brunson then contacted the Housing Authority requesting a copy of the change of beneficiary form, but the Housing Authority had no record of it.

Rose appealed the designation of Mary and Geneva as the beneficiaries of the death benefits.

The Division sent the Housing Authority an Employer's Certification of Death Form and advised that it would process the benefits to the designated beneficiary upon receipt of the completed form. The Housing Authority returned the completed form, which listed April 30, 2004 as the last employer contribution to James' pension, and May 6, 2004 as his last day of active service. Since James was not employed by the Housing Authority at the time of his death, his beneficiaries were only entitled to his pension benefit.

The Division notified Mary and Geneva that they were entitled to the pension benefit, and notified Brunson it had placed the claim in "contested" status. Brunson then notified the Division that Mary was deceased and that Geneva wished to renounce her claim to the pension benefits because she believed James' intent, prior to his death, was to execute a change of beneficiary form designating Rose as sole beneficiary.

The Division determined that Geneva was entitled to the entire pension benefit of $48,987.76, and that it would be paid to her unless she submitted a waiver form renouncing her interest. The Division also notified Geneva that she was entitled to the entire benefit, and that it was subject to a final audit by Prudential and the Pension System Actuary.

On or about March 24, 2006, Brunson requested that the matter be transferred to the Office of Administrative Law (OAL). A Deputy Attorney General (DAG) then notified Geneva that Rose contested her interest in the pension benefit; that Rose had asserted that Geneva wanted to renounce her interest; and that ...


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