April 2015 Issue
March 25, 2015

TRS: Your pension and the 'ex' factor

Source: NYSUT United

Teacher-members on the New York State Teachers’ Retirement System Board of DirectorsQ: I am retired, and my wife and I recently divorced. Can I change the name of my state Teachers' Retirement System beneficiary?

A: To start, let's make one point clear — if you are currently retired, you can only change your beneficiary in one of two instances. If you're a Tier 2-6 member with a Paragraph 2 in-service death benefit that was in effect at retirement; or if you selected a lump sum or guaranteed period benefit payment and that coverage is still in effect. If one of these instances doesn't apply to your situation, unfortunately, changing your beneficiary isn't possible. In short, you can't change the beneficiary of a survivor or a pop-up pension option. Additionally, 30 days after you retire, changes can't be made to the pension option you selected at retirement.

To change your beneficiary under scenario one, file a properly completed Designation of Beneficiary (NET-11.4) form with NYSTRS. To change your beneficiary under scenario two, use one of two forms: the Designation of Beneficiary for Retirees Who Elected a Guaranteed Period Option (RMS-5.3) form, if you selected a guaranteed period option; or the Designation of Beneficiary for Retirees Who Elected a Lump Sum Option (RMS-5) form if you selected a lump sum option. The forms are available at nystrs.org, or by calling the NYSTRS Hotline at 800-782-0289.

Q: I'm an in-service member, and I'm going through a divorce. Do I have to personally change my NYSTRS beneficiary, or will the system automatically do that for me once my divorce is finalized?

A: Thanks to the enactment of Chapter 173 of the Laws of 2008, the answer to that question is yes — NYSTRS will automatically remove your former spouse as your beneficiary in the instance of divorce, annulment or judicial separation. Chapter 173 treats the former spouse as having predeceased the member. However, if a judgment, decree or a domestic relations order specifically directs NYSTRS to provide for the ex-spouse, those directives will be followed.

If you'd like your ex-spouse to remain as your beneficiary, you must file a new Designation of Beneficiary (NET-11.4) form with NYSTRS following a divorce, annulment or judicial separation.

DID YOU KNOW

The New York State Teachers' Retirement System reported a whopping 18.2 percent return for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2014. It was the fourth double-digit return posted since 2009, and far exceeded the actuarially assumed 8 percent rate of return.

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