October 2012
September 27, 2012

ERS: Is your beneficiary info current?

Author: State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli
Source: NYSUT United

Have you reviewed your beneficiary designations lately? Many people name a beneficiary when they join the Employees' Retirement System (ERS) or at the time of their retirement, but then never review those documents again.

If you die in active service (while you are employed by a participating employer), 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. Remember, we are obligated by law to pay the last beneficiaries you named any ordinary death benefit due, except in certain divorce, annulment or judicial separation cases.

There are two types of beneficiaries.

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: How many individuals can I name as my beneficiaries?

A: You can name as many beneficiaries as you want, however, our Designation of Beneficiary form only permits you to name four primary and four contingent beneficiaries. If you wish to add more, please contact us so we may provide you with instructions on what to do.

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 even name an organization, such as a charity or religious institution, or your estate.

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

A: Complete a new Desig-nation 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 can I get more information?

A: You can either 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 Albany area.