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.

  • I receive monthly benefits from my deceased spouse. When I die do the benefits stop or go to my beneficiaries?

    • Norma,

      If you are receiving a joint life annuity or monthly survivor benefits, then the monthly benefits would stop at your death. If you have specific questions about your benefits, we encourage you to call us at 800-222-7377.

      –Ohio PERS

      • I am confused by your answer to Norma. I thought upon the death of a retiree, his or her spouse or named beneficiary will continue receiving pension based on percentage selected on retirement?

  • ‘ello,

    How are we defining ‘spouse’ here?

    This is concerning because my lady (the love of my life), my life partner and confidant of 20 years +, AND mother of my 3 daughters (ages 13, 14, and 20) is not technically my wife.

    We do not wish to become married. We feel that with unhindered choice, our love and commitment to one another is more true and evident out from under the age old system of wedLOCK.
    And not to demean that system, it’s just not our choice, personally.

    There is no way, sensibly or reasonably, that she should be excluded from this benefit because in every modern understanding of the word, she IS my wife.
    Family knows it, friends know it, the public (insurance/mortgage/credit/banks) know it.
    We own 2 houses together(soon to be 3), share HSA’s, credit cards, and insurance policies….

    So, as you can see, I’d like to know what we mean here by ‘spouse’, as it could be crucial to the surviving welfare of my best friend and our daughters.

    Thank you kindly,

    PS- side note-
    Here very soon I’ll become a firefighter for my fair city, would that still be an OPERS position or are they under a different situation (I know they have a separate union).

  • My spouse who was my beneficiary passed away three weeks ago. Iam doing the paperwork to designate my daughter as my new beneficiary. Will my monthly income increase when the paerworks completed. Iam not sure how that works

    • Please send your questions through your online account message center or contact us at 800-222-7377. Thank you M.S

  • My husband was single when he retired. We married a year after that and he had me added as his beneficiary. He has been diagnosed with cancer and in checking on his retirement was told I would not be eligible to receive his benefits if something happens to him. We cannot seem to get clear answers on this. Doesn’t seem right.

    • I can only provide general information as this is not a secured connection. Please have the member forward your inquiry through our online message center, there we will be able to review the account specific information and respond to your question. If the member does not already have an online account, they may register from the upper right-hand corner of OPERS website. Once logged in, click on my account tab, select message center from the drop-down menu, then click add new at the bottom of the page to submit your question or you can contact OPERS at 1-800-222-7377. Thank you MS

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