The importance of beneficiary designation

Plan carefully when choosing someone to receive future benefits

By Kristen Dohrmann, Ohio Public Employees Retirement System

April 9, 2019 — Whether you’re planning your retirement or still actively working, it’s important to carefully consider who you will designate as your beneficiaries.

Your beneficiaries are the individual, or individuals, who may qualify to receive survivor benefits at the time of your death. You can designate a beneficiary in one of two ways: specific designation and automatic succession.

Specific designation is when you designate a primary beneficiary(ies) as well as contingent beneficiary(ies) on your OPERS account.

Keep in mind, there are certain circumstances under state law when an event cancels or overrides a specific designation. Marriage, divorce, dissolution of marriage, legal separation or the birth or adoption of a child makes a prior specific designation invalid. BE sure to update your specific designation if one of these events occur.

If you do not designate a specific beneficiary prior to death, your beneficiary designation is determined by automatic succession as defined by law:

  1. spouse
  2. children
  3. dependent parents
  4. parents share equally
  5. estate

Survivor benefits

Should you pass away while you’re still actively working or while you’re receiving a disability benefit, your beneficiaries may qualify to receive survivor benefits.

For your beneficiaries to qualify for survivor benefits under the Traditional Pension and Combined plans, you must have at least 18 months of full-time service at time of your death (with at least three of those months occurring within two and half years prior to your death).

If these eligibility requirements are met at the time of your death, your beneficiaries may be entitled to either a lump sum refund or, if they meet certain requirements, they may receive a monthly benefit that is a percentage of your final average salary.

The Member-Directed Plan does not offer survivor benefits. However, upon your death, the vested portion of your individual account balance will be paid to your beneficiaries in a one-time, lump-sum payment. In addition, the vested balance of your retiree medical account can be used by your eligible dependents to pay for qualified medical expenses. Your eligible dependents could include a legal spouse or child(ren).

If you pass away after you retire, benefits will be paid out to your beneficiaries according to the payment plan you chose at retirement.

  • If you selected Single Life Plan, your beneficiaries will not receive continued benefits. If the total of what you had received is less than your total contributions, your beneficiaries will receive the remaining balance.
  • If you chose either Joint Life or Multiple Life plans, your beneficiaries will receive continued benefits.

To learn more about survivor benefits including eligibility requirements and qualifications, review the Survivor Benefits leaflet, or reach out to us at 1-800-222-7377.

Kristen Dohrmann

Kristen Dohrmann is a senior communications specialist with the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System. Kristen is responsible for active member communications including the quarterly member newsletter, OPERS News. She has more than 10 years of experience as a communicator in the public sector.

Kristen Dohrmann

Senior Communication Specialist

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