CalPERS is a California government program that provides benefits and services to California public employees, retirees, and their families. They offer retirement, health, and end-of-life benefits for those who qualify. In the United States, CalPERS is the largest public pension fund.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- What Happens to CalPERS Benefits After a Death?
- Who’s Supposed to Notify CalPERS of a Death?
- Steps for Reporting a Death to CalPERS
Through CalPERS, public employees access important benefits, including but not limited to disability, long-term care, and survivor benefits to next-of-kin. However, once someone receiving CalPERS benefits dies, their family needs to know the right steps to apply for any extra benefits. One of the ways CalPERS stands out compared to similar programs is how it assists the family even after the death of a loved one.
As you likely know, it’s not always easy to understand what to do when someone dies. In this guide, we’ll share how to notify CalPERS of a death through step-by-step instructions. While this doesn’t need to be first on your list, it’s an important way to make sure you get the benefits owed to you.
What Happens to CalPERS Benefits After a Death?
First, what happens to CalPERS benefits after a death? Unlike other programs, many of these benefits are passed on to surviving beneficiaries. While your specific death benefits depend on your plan, employer, and program, it’s important to know your options.
To start, CalPERS provides death benefits to eligible beneficiaries upon the death of a member before retirement. If someone was actively employed with a CalPERS-covered employer at their time of death or had contributions on deposit and wasn’t retired, their family likely qualifies.
While the benefits depend on the member’s age, service years, job, and employer’s contract, benefits for survivors might include any of the following:
- Limited death benefit: The member’s contributions and interest through the date of death could be paid to the designated beneficiary.
- Basic death benefit: This refers to the return of the member’s contributions and interest. It also often includes a payment equal to half of their annual earnings for the year prior to their death.
- Group term life insurance: This is typically a lump sum payment of $5,000. This could also include an additional payment equal to half of the member’s annual earnings.
- 1957 survivor benefit: Started in 1957, this is a monthly allowance for minor children. It’s equal to half the highest service retirement benefit, and it is paid until the youngest child reaches 18 years of age.
- Pre-retirement option benefit: The pre-retirement option benefit is a lifetime monthly allowance to a surviving spouse or registered domestic partner. This is calculated as though the member retired from service on their date of death and they are leaving their benefits to their surviving spouse.
- Alternative death benefit: This is another benefit for surviving spouses or domestic partners, as well as the minor children of state members. It is a monthly payment relating to the member’s time of service.
- Special death benefit: Alternatively, a monthly death benefit could be equal to half of the member’s average monthly salary for the past 12 months. This is only paid if the death was job-related.
- 1958 survivor benefit: Lastly, this is a monthly allowance to a spouse, registered domestic partner, or unmarried child under age 22. This is paid in addition to other benefits above, and only if the member was enrolled in this special program.
As for any other benefits (health, disability, etc.), those benefits disappear at their time of death. However, if the surviving family member received insurance coverage through their deceased loved one, this will continue for a specific period (4+ months), depending on the death benefit. To learn more about your loved one’s specific CalPERS benefits, contact their employer directly.
Who’s Supposed to Notify CalPERS of a Death?
With a long death notification checklist, who is supposed to notify CalPERS of a death? There are no legal limits on who can notify CalPERS of a death. However, you will need to know information about the deceased as well as their surviving beneficiary.
Because there is a lot of information to include, it’s common for the surviving spouse, domestic partner, or adult child to complete the CalPERS notification process. The initial notification is only the first step. From there, an official application package will be mailed to the closest next of kin or someone else qualified to manage the estate.
Steps for Reporting a Death to CalPERS
If your loved one had a CalPERS benefits package, it’s relatively simple to report their death and receive any applicable benefits. To begin, follow the steps below clearly and efficiently.
1. Gather information
Before you begin, it’s helpful to have the right information. You will need this when you contact the CalPERS department for survivor benefits, so having it available is helpful. Like with all aspects of arranging someone’s final affairs, you will need to know how to get a death certificate. From there, you will also need:
- The date of birth of the deceased
- The name and Social Security number of the deceased
- The member’s CalPERS ID
- Name, phone number, date of birth, date of marriage, and Social Security number of a surviving spouse or registered domestic partner
- Name, phone number, and address of next-of-kin or person designated as the executor of the estate (if there is no spouse)
Additionally, if you’re not the surviving spouse, next-of-kin, or executor, you will also need to provide your own name, address, and phone number. If you’re not sure of the individual’s CalPERS ID, contact their employer. Once you have all of your documentation, proceed to the next step.
2. Contact CalPERS
The next step is to contact CalPERS directly. You cannot submit a notification online or by email. You will need to contact them by telephone or mail. You can call CalPERS directly at 888-225-7377. Alternatively, you can mail a written notification of death (including all information above) to:
CalPERS Disability & Survivors Benefits Division
Survivor & Death Benefits
P.O. Box 1652
Sacramento, CA 95812-1652
Alternatively, you may visit a CalPERS office in person if one is located near you. You can check for CalPERS headquarters and regional offices on their website, so be sure to review any office hours and changes. Lastly, if your loved one was still employed at their time of death, their employer may also report the death to CalPERS on your behalf.
3. Receive the application
Notifying CalPERS is the first step, but it’s not the only step. Once you’ve made your notification by phone, mail, or in-person, you will receive the death benefit application package in the mail.
This has more forms to complete, as well as documents you will need to send. Again, you cannot request this application online. You need to follow the steps above. It can take several days or weeks for this application to be mailed, so be patient and check with CalPERS about your status.
4. Complete the death benefit application
Once you’ve received the death benefit application in the mail, it’s time to complete it fully. This should be completed by the member’s surviving spouse, next-of-kin, or the executor of their estate. You will need to submit:
- A copy of the death certificate
- Your completed death benefit application
- Marriage certificate (or divorce certificate)
- Domestic partnership registration certificate
- Birth certificate of survivor (if you’re entitled to a monthly allowance)
- Children’s birth certificate (if they’re beneficiaries)
- Letters of administration or letters testamentary for the probated estate (if the estate receives benefits)
- Certification of trust forms (if relevant)
When you submit your initial notification to CalPERS, they will share what documents you specifically need based on your situation. Not all of the above are required for every death benefit, so make sure you’re only sharing what you need. Moreover, you do not need to send official documents. Copies are sufficient.
When you’re ready, submit your finalized application and documentation to the right address:
Calpers Disability & Survivor Benefits Division
Survivor & Death Benefits
P.O. Box 1652
Sacramento, CA 95812-1652
Once received, CalPERS begins processing your request. Their office will contact you directly if anything additional is needed to receive your benefits.
CalPERS Survivors Benefits: How to Apply
In this guide above, we covered how to receive any CalPERS survivors benefits. Depending on your loved one’s membership status, you might be entitled to a lump-sum payment or even monthly payments. These funds are a helpful way to afford final costs and end-of-life care, and they reduce the burden of your loved one’s loss.
When in doubt, contact CalPERS directly about your death benefits. Every situation is different. It’s important that you get the benefits you’re owed in a timely, stress-free manner. Loss is never easy. Yet, thanks to CalPERS, it’s a little bit easier.