Estate Law Questions? Ask an Estate Lawyer.
Under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”), a surviving spouse is automatically the beneficiary of any employer sponsored retirement plan unless they sign a written waiver allowing the plan owner to name someone else as the beneficiary.
So your recourse here would be to contact the plan administrator with the university and file a formal objection to any funds being disbursed as being in violation of ERISA because you never signed a waiver of your rights as primary beneficiary.
If they have disbursed funds already, then you will have to hire an employment law attorney to assist with filing suit against the university for violating ERISA if they are unable to retrieve the funds.