January 2011
December 20, 2010

ERS: Is your beneficiary list up to date?

Source: NYSUT United

While most of us don't like to think about dying, planning ahead can help members of the Employees' Retirement System provide for their loved ones when they are gone.

If you die in active service, and your death is not the result of an on-the-job accident, or if you are off your employer's payroll for less than one year and not otherwise employed, your beneficiaries may be entitled to an ordinary death benefit.

Since payment is made to the last beneficiaries you designate, you should periodically review your retirement information to make sure your beneficiary designations reflect your current wishes. There are two types of beneficiaries: primary and contingent.

A primary beneficiary is the person who receives your death benefit. If you name more than one primary beneficiary, each will share the benefit equally, unless you indicate that specific percentages totaling 100 percent are to be paid (e.g., John Doe, 50 percent; Jane Doe, 25 percent; and Mary Doe, 25 percent).

A contingent beneficiary will receive your death benefit only if all the primary beneficiaries die before you. Multiple contingent beneficiaries will share the benefit equally, unless you indicate that specific percentages are to be paid.

Q: Do I have to designate my spouse or other family members as the beneficiary of my ordinary death benefit?

A: No. You may designate any person you choose. You can also name any organization, such as a charity or religious institution, or your estate.

Q: How often can I change my beneficiaries?

A: You can change, add or delete beneficiaries at any time.

Q: How do I add a beneficiary to the ones I've already designated?

A: Complete a new Designation of Beneficiary form (RS5127) and submit it to us. (You can obtain this form online at www.osc.state.ny.us/retire/forms/rs5127-i.pdf.)
Include the names, addresses and birth dates of all the beneficiaries you wish to designate. After entering all the information, be sure to sign and date the form and have your signature notarized. The notary must include his or her date of notary expiration and should not be an interested party (i.e., a person designated as your beneficiary). Any alterations, including erasures or the use of correction fluid, will void the form.

Q: How many individuals can I name as my beneficiaries?

A: You can name up to four primary and four contingent beneficiaries on a Designation of Beneficiary form. To designate more beneficiaries, please contact us for instructions since we cannot accept attachments to the form. Remember, a new designation of beneficiary form supersedes any previous designations.

Q: When does a beneficiary designation become effective?

A: Changes become effective when we receive and approve your form.

Q: How can I get more information?

A: Start by reading about your retirement plan and the benefits payable in the event of your death. You can also refer to our publication, Life Changes: Why Should I Designate a Beneficiary?, available on our website at www.osc.state.ny.us/retire/publications/vo1706.htm, or contact our Call Center toll-free at 866-805-0990 or 518-474-7736 in the Capital District.