Virginia: Premarital Agreements – a Lawyer’s ERISA

Virginia: Premarital Agreements – a Lawyer’s ERISA

In Hagwood v. Newton, 282 F.3d 285 (4th Cir. 2002), the United States Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals held that the survivor benefits waiver of a premarital agreement was invalid and unenforceable under the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, as amended by the Retirement Equity Act of 1984 (“ERISA”). First, since the signatory was unmarried at the time of execution, he lacked the requisite spousal status to waive ERISA survivor benefits. Id. at 289-291. Second, the premarital agreement failed to designate the requisite beneficiary for ERISA survivor benefits. Id. at 291.

Hagwood reflects the unanimous view of federal courts on the first point. Id. at 290. Hagwood has been followed by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals and by two United States District Courts in Virginia. Davis v. Adelphia Communs Corp., 475 F.Supp.2d 600, 605-606 (W.D. Va. 2007); Veolia Water Ret. Sav. Plan v. Smith, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 9754 (W.D. Va. Feb. 12, 2007).