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EP Examination Process Guide - Section 9 - Participant Rights - Participant Events - When an Employee is Eligible to Enter the Plan

When an employee is eligible to enter the plan, there are several documents that should be provided, depending on the type of retirement plan and when the eligibility requirements are met.


Summary Plan Description

Description: The summary plan description is a document which, in plain language, describes the provisions of the plan and the participant’s benefits and rights under the plan.

What It Should Contain: The summary plan description should contain information on what the benefits are and how they will be provided. For additional information on summary plan descriptions, please refer to DOL Reg. 2520.102-3.

Timing: A participant should receive a summary plan description within 90 days after becoming a participant. A beneficiary should receive it within 90 days after first receiving benefits.

Who Is Responsible For Sending It: The administrator of the plan.

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Enrollment Package

Description: For some plans, employees must enroll to participate. To enroll, a participant may be required to complete printed forms or to enroll via telephonic or electronic means. In cases of telephonic or electronic enrollment, an enrollment package is provided. This package generally contains documents that describe the plan and instructions for proper enrollment in the plan.

What It Should Contain: The enrollment package should contain sufficient information to guide the employee to successfully enroll in the plan. The package might include:

  • a summary plan description (if not already provided);
  • salary deferral election form or other enrollment instructions (if an IRC section 401(k) plan);
  • information on investment options (if the plan permits the participants to direct investments); and
  • a beneficiary designation form.

Timing: The enrollment package may be given out at any time - but must be provided to employees prior to plan participation.

Who Is Responsible For Sending It: The administrator of the plan.

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Beneficiary Designation Form

Description: The beneficiary form designates who will receive benefits if the participant dies before receiving all of his/her benefits. If the participant is married or was married after becoming a participant, there are special rules regarding the benefits that must be paid to the participant’s spouse. If the participant fails to complete this form and dies, the plan will pay benefits as described in the plan document. This may not be in accordance with the participant’s wishes.

What It Should Contain: The beneficiary designation form should contain sufficient information for the participant to successfully name a beneficiary. The form might include:

  • information identifying the participant (such as name, plan identification number or employee number);  the participant’s spouse (such as name, address); and the beneficiary or beneficiaries (such as name, address, relationship to the participant); and

  • a line for the participant to sign and date as well as a line for the spouse to sign and date if the spouse is designated by the plan to be the participant’s beneficiary and the participant would like to choose someone else to be the beneficiary.

Timing: Employees should receive a beneficiary designation form when they become a plan participant.  Generally, the participant may change the beneficiary by completing a new beneficiary designation form.

Who Is Responsible For Sending It: The administrator of the plan.

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Salary Deferral Election Form (for participants in a 401(k) plan)

Description: The salary deferral election form designates how much money (either a percentage of pay or a certain dollar amount) to withhold from the plan participant’s future salary/wages to be deposited into the trust. The election form may be completed via  paper, electronic or  telephonic means.

What It Should Contain: The salary deferral election form should contain sufficient information for the participant to successfully elect to defer a portion of their salary to the plan. The form might include information:

  • identifying the participant (such as name, plan identification number or
     employee number);
  • the amount of salary deferral to be made;
  • the effective date (usually the first pay period after receipt by human resources or as soon as administratively feasible);
  • any plan document or statutory limits on the amount that may be contributed;
  • a statement that salary deferrals will be taken only from future pay; and
  • a signature line for the participant to sign and date.

Timing: Generally, the form is given to eligible employees just prior to the date they are eligible to participate in the plan. The form may be given to participants at any time.

Who Is Responsible For Sending It: The administrator of the plan.

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Page Last Reviewed or Updated: 10-Sep-2013