A:

Your employer or the plan administrator for the 401(k) plan should have provided you with a copy of the 401(k) plan's summary plan description (SPD). If you can't find your copy, contact your employer and ask for a replacement copy. A copy of the plan's SPD may also be obtained from the Department of Labor (DOL) by writing to: The Department of Labor, EBSA, Public Disclosure Room, Room N-1513, 200 Constitution Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C.20210. (They may charge you copying fees, which are usually a very small amount.)

The SPD is required to include an explanation – in non-technical terms – of the plan provisions, such as your benefits and rights under the plan, including when you are eligible to receive distributions.

Alternatively, you may ask your employer to provide an explanation for refusing to honor your request; in fact, you must be given an explanation in writing. Legitimate explanations for a delay in distributions include the following:

  • You are not yet eligible to receive distributions from the plan. For instance, the plan may require that participants reach a certain age before they are considered eligible to receive a distribution. This age requirement can apply even if you are no longer employed with the company.
  • The plan may make payments only at a certain frequency, such as quarterly. Therefore, if you requested a distribution in mid-January, you may need to wait until March 31 before you receive the requested amount.

If you feel your employer is not complying with the terms of the plan, you may contact the DOL toll free at 1-866-444-3272 and ask to speak with a regional office representative near you, or you may contact your regional office – see http://www.dol.gov/ebsa/aboutebsa/org_chart.html#section13 for a list of regional offices and their contact information.

This question was answered by Denise Appleby
(Contact Denise)

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