What is ERISA?

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) is a federal law that sets minimum standards for retirement plans and certain health plans in the private sector. The objective of ERISA is to protect the rights of individual plan participants.


ERISA requires plans to provide participants with plan information including important information about plan features and funding; sets minimum standards for participation, vesting, benefit accrual and funding; provides fiduciary responsibilities for those who manage and control plan assets; requires plans to establish a grievance and appeals process for participants to get benefits from their plans; gives participants the right to sue for benefits and breaches of fiduciary duty; and, if a defined benefit plan is terminated, guarantees payment of certain benefits through a federally chartered corporation, known as the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC).


In general, ERISA does not cover plans established or maintained by governmental entities and churches for their employees, or plans which are maintained solely to comply with applicable workers compensation, unemployment or disability laws.


ERISA also does not cover plans maintained outside the United States primarily for the benefit of nonresident aliens or so-called unfunded excess benefit plans.


Robert Adler, Esq. is an attorney who focuses his practice on wills, trusts and estates. He can be reached at 212-843-4059 or 646-946-8327.

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