Question Submitted By Cook, 010819 OKAG, 2019 OK AG 1

Docket Nº:2019 OK AG 1
Party Name:Question Submitted by: The Honorable Christopher Cook, Oklahoma Police Pension & Retirement System
Attorney:MIKE HUNTER, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF OKLAHOMA ERIN MOORE, ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL
Case Date:January 08, 2019
Court:Oklahoma Attorney General Opinions
 
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2019 OK AG 1

Question Submitted by: The Honorable Christopher Cook, Oklahoma Police Pension & Retirement System

No. 2019 OK AG 1

Oklahoma Attorney General Opinions

January 8, 2019

MIKE HUNTER, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF OKLAHOMA

ERIN MOORE, ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL

¶0 This office has received your letter requesting an official Attorney General Opinion in which you ask, in effect, the following questions: 1. Under 11 O.S.2011, § 50-124, may the surviving spouse or child of a deceased "alternate payee," who is entitled to a portion of a related member's retirement benefits pursuant to a valid qualified domestic order, receive payments as the "beneficiary" of the deceased alternate payee?

2. Does the definition of "beneficiary" under 11 O.S.2011, § 50-101 (13) include a surviving spouse or child of a deceased alternate payee?

I.

BACKGROUND

¶1 As its name suggests, the Oklahoma Police Pension and Retirement System ("OPPRS") "is the state retirement system of Oklahoma police officers." 1

Steelman v. Okla. Police Pens. and Ret. Sys., 2005 OK CIV APP 91, ¶ 11, 128 P.3d 1090, 1094; see also 11 O.S.2011, § 50-112 (setting forth eligibility criteria for participation in OPPRS). Created by statute, OPPRS is "a body corporate and an instrumentality of this state," the assets of which are held in trust "for the exclusive purpose of providing benefits for the members and beneficiaries of the System." 11 O.S.2011, § 50-102.1. Further to this purpose, the permissible uses of OPPRS funds are limited by statute, and include, among other things, investments, pension and injury/disability payments to members, and pension payments to members' beneficiaries. Id. § 50-113.

¶2 Since the inception of OPPRS as part of the Municipal Code, see 1977 Okla. Sess. Laws ch. 256, §§ 50-101 -- 50-124, funds held by OPPRS in trust for its members have been explicitly protected under Title 11, Section 50-124(A) from claims of third-party creditors. See 11 O.S.2011, § 50-124 (A); see also Rice v. Rice, 1988 OK 83, ¶¶ 12-13, 762 P.2d 925, 927. Section 50-124(A) also contains the further limitation: "nor shall [OPPRS] payments or any claim thereto be directly or indirectly assigned, and any attempt to assign or transfer the same shall be void." 11 O.S.2011, § 50-124 (A). Finally, Section 50-124(A) explicitly requires that OPPRS funds "shall be held, invested, secured and distributed for the purposes named in [Article L of Title 11], and for no other purpose whatever." Id. (emphasis added).

¶3 While this strict limiting language remains in subsection A of Section 50-124, the Legislature amended the...

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