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Pay & Leave Claim Decisions

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Office of the General Counsel

Re: Estate of [xxx]

Dear Ms. [xxx]:

This is in response to your request to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) concerning the disbursement of the unpaid compensation of [xxx], a former employee of the [agency], who died on July 15, 1996. For the reasons expressed herein, OPM defers the issuance of a decision concerning the proper disbursement of the decedent's unpaid compensation in order that extrinsic evidence may be submitted.

As you know, on November 3, 1986, Mr. [xxx] completed a Designation of Beneficiary form (Standard Form 1152) on which he listed two beneficiaries to receive any unpaid compensation due and payable after his death. The first beneficiary listed was Mr. [xxx]'s sister, [xxx], and the second beneficiary listed was [xxx], a friend who later became [xxx], the decedent's wife. Unfortunately, in describing the shares to be distributed to the two beneficiaries, Mr. [xxx] indicated that both beneficiaries were to receive "all" of his unpaid compensation.

It is our determination that the decedent's Standard Form 1152 contains a material defect. The material defect results from the listing by the decedent of both beneficiaries to receive "all" of the decedent's unpaid compensation. The material defect, at present, prevents the decedent's designations from being legally effective. See Cornell D. Cooper, Deceased, B-254921, March 11, 1994. In this case, Mr. [xxx]'s SF-1152 suggests either of two interpretations. First, he may have intended that his sister, if she was still living at the time of his death, get all of his unpaid compensation, and if she was not still living, that his wife would get all of his unpaid compensation. Second, he may have intended that his sister and his wife each share half of his unpaid compensation. You may consider any extrinsic evidence either claimant may provide to discern Mr. [xxx]'s intent, and, if the evidence clearly points to one interpretation or another, you may pay Mr. [xxx]'s unpaid compensation accordingly. Joseph J. White, Jr., B-182519, July 2, 1975.

If the evidence is not clear, then Mr. [xxx]'s SF-1152 must be considered legally ineffective, see Cooper, supra, and Mr. [xxx]'s unpaid compensation must be distributed according to the order of precedence provided in 5 U.S.C. 5582. If this proves to be the case, then Mr. [xxx]'s widow should receive all of his unpaid compensation. Id.

We are returning to your office the original documents received from you.

Sincerely yours,

Murray M. Meeker
Senior Attorney

cc: xxx


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