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Frequently asked questions about standard terminations

Yes. A rollover of an amount exceeding a plan's de minimis cash-out level is subject to spousal consent regardless of whether the participant wants the lump sum to be rolled over into another plan or IRA or paid directly by check or direct deposit. 

Yes. One purpose of the notice is to help participants make informed decisions regarding elections between lump sums and annuity benefits. Also, a participant who has already elected a lump sum may change the election. This notice is not required in the case of a participant or beneficiary who will receive a mandatory cash-out of a de minimis benefit.

Yes, the deadline for distributing assets to provide for all benefits under the plan, either by paying lump sums (as permitted) or buying an annuity contract is normally the later of (a) 180 days after the end of PBGC's 60-day (or extended) review period or (b) if the plan administrator has timely submitted a valid IRS determination letter request, 120 days after receipt of a favorable determination letter. The deadline may be extended. (See the instructions for the plan termination forms booklet for more details; this deadline does not apply to distributions of excess assets to participants or to the plan sponsor.)

An employer choosing to terminate a fully funded pension plan must distribute all plan benefits to participants and beneficiaries before completing the plan's termination. If someone cannot be found after a diligent search, the plan administrator must either purchase an annuity from a private insurer in that person's name and provide information on the missing person and insurer to PBGC or transfer the value of the person's benefit to PBGC's Missing Participants Program.

No. The PDC must be filed after benefit liabilities have been satisfied, without regard to any excess asset distribution.  The PDC is due 30 days after you complete distribution in satisfaction of all plan benefits, regardless of whether excess assets have been distributed. 

Note that the PDC includes a plan administrator's certification that assets in excess of those needed to satisfy benefit liabilities have been or will be distributed in accordance with applicable provisions of ERISA and implementing regulations. [italics added for emphasis]

PBGC has been contacted by practitioners who have difficulty finding an insurance company to purchase irrevocable commitments from. In such cases, PBGC will approve requests for extension of time to distribute, though it may ask for additional information. PBGC also assists by providing names of insurers listed on recently submitted Post-Distribution Certifications. PBGC does not endorse any insurers.  Under current law, annuities must be purchased if the participants (and their spouses if they’re married) do not consent to a lump sum. PBGC has not encountered a situation where a plan administrator is unable to complete a standard termination for this reason.

No. Participants of a defined benefit plan covered under Title IV of ERISA must receive their full plan benefits [refer to Section 4041(b)(3)(A)]. Any administrative expenses that are paid from Plan assets may not reduce a participant’s benefit under such a plan.

Conversion of a defined benefit plan into a defined contribution plan (whether a target benefit, profit-sharing, 401(k), or other type of defined contribution plan) is a voluntary termination of the defined benefit plan and is subject to all the rules and requirements governing terminations of defined benefit plans. This includes all notices to participants and beneficiaries and filings with PBGC. Benefit elections and spousal consents are governed by the applicable provisions of the Internal Revenue Code and the implementing regulations.

You should notify PBGC of a decision not to proceed with a termination after having filed a Form 500 (Standard Termination Notice) with the agency.  You may do so:

  • By email:, or
  • By mail or overnight delivery service at:

    Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation
    Standard Termination Compliance Division
    445 12th Street SW, Washington, DC 20024-2101

In accordance with the requirements of the Notice of Intent to Terminate, the plan administrator must also promptly inform all affected parties of the decision not to terminate the plan. If a decision is made to again proceed with the termination, the process must begin with a new date of plan termination and Notice of Intent to Terminate.

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