It’s not always easy to know what to do when someone dies. This is partially because the steps one must take after the death of a close loved one can vary based on a number of factors.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Who’s Allowed to Report a Death to the New York State Pension?
- What Happens to a Person’s New York State Pension When They Die?
- Steps for Reporting a Death to NYSLRS
For example, perhaps you’ve recently lost a loved one who was a retired New York State public servant. If so, you or other beneficiaries may be entitled to receive pension payments. To collect what you’re owed, you’ll need to send a notification to the Office of the New York State Comptroller’s New York State and Local Retirement System (NYSLRS).
If you believe you may need to file a New York State pension death notification but you’re not sure how to do so, keep reading. This overview will describe the process. It explains how to determine if you should report a death, what happens to New York public servant’s pension after their death, and how to go about notifying NYSLRS.
Who’s Allowed to Report a Death to the New York State Pension?
When a New York State public servant retires, they can typically choose from a range of pension options. They can also choose what happens to their pension after they die.
Some options only allow them to name a single beneficiary. Others allow them to name multiple. Regardless, a retiree will typically let you know if they’ve named you as a beneficiary. Thus, if you know you’re a named beneficiary, you know you have the right to file a New York State pension death notification.
However, it is possible that you’re not aware you’re a beneficiary. Don’t worry if you’re not certain whether you’re a beneficiary or not. NYSLRS nevertheless recommends that survivors of deceased retirees contact them promptly after a death. This blog will cover how to do so further down.
Upon contacting NYSLRS, if you’re a legitimate survivor of the deceased, you’ll receive information about their pension and death benefits. This information will typically let you know who is and isn’t a beneficiary.
It’s also very possible that your loved one’s will contains information on this subject. For example, if the will names you executor or administrator of their estate, filing a New York State pension death notification may be among your executor duties.
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What Happens to a Person’s New York State Pension When They Die?
The answer to this question varies depending on a number of factors. They include the following:
The option they chose
When a New York State public servant retires, they have several options from which to choose regarding how beneficiaries may receive post-retirement death benefits:
- Single-life allowance: New York public servants who choose this option typically receive the maximum pension benefit. However, when they die after retirement, their beneficiaries do not receive any continued benefits.
- Joint-allowances: A retiree who chooses this option can name a single beneficiary who is eligible to receive a monthly pension if said retiree dies before their beneficiary does. However, if the beneficiary dies first, the retiree does not have the option of naming a different beneficiary.
- Pop-up allowances: This option doesn’t necessarily pertain to what happens when a retired New York State public servant dies, but because it’s an option they may choose upon retirement, it’s worth understanding. With this option, if a retiree’s beneficiary dies before them, their own pension amount will increase.
- Five-Year Certain: A retiree who chooses this option can name multiple beneficiaries. If the retiree dies within five years of retiring, their beneficiaries will all receive payment for the remainder of the five years. For example, if a retiree died exactly three years after retiring, their beneficiaries would receive payment for two years.
- Ten-Year Certain: This plan is essentially the same as the one above, except it applies to a period of ten years instead of five. Pensioners who choose the Five-Year Certain or Ten-Year Certain plans also have the option of changing their beneficiaries by submitting a Pensioner’s Designation of Beneficiaries Form.
When they died
Again, if a retired New York public servant chooses the Five-Year Certain or Ten-Year Certain option, whether they die within five or ten years (depending on the plan they choose) will determine what happens to their pension.
However, some retirees are also eligible for a “post-retirement death benefit.” The retirement plan and tier of a retiree will determine if they are eligible for this option.
If an eligible retiree chooses this option, their beneficiaries may receive a one-time lump sum payment based on the retiree’s pre-retirement ordinary death benefit (as beneficiaries of active New York State public servants may also be eligible for death benefits if their loved ones die before retirement).
How much beneficiaries receive when a retiree chooses this option depends on when the retiree in question passes:
- If they pass within the first year of retirement, beneficiaries receive a one-time payment in the amount of 50% of their pre-retirement ordinary death benefit.
- If they pass in their second year of retirement, beneficiaries receive payment in the amount of 25% of their ordinary death benefit.
- If they pass after their second year of retirement, payment amounts to 10% of what would have been payable at retirement or at age 60, depending on which is earlier.
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A note on special circumstances
There are some instances when the beneficiaries of a New York State public servant who died after retiring have the right to collect more than they normally would by converting their normal retirement benefit to an accidental death benefit. Specifically, they can do so if circumstances meet the following criteria:
- The retiree retired under a service or disability requirement
- They had been retired for fewer than 25 years when they died
- They had participated in World Trade Center rescue, recovery, or cleanup after the September 11 attacks and their beneficiaries filed an Application for World Trade Center Notice by September 11, 2022
That last point highlights the most important element of this criteria. Because there is substantial evidence suggesting that assisting in the rescue, recovery, and cleanup efforts at the World Trade Center during and following the September 11 attacks exposed workers to asbestos or other harmful materials, their deaths may qualify as accidental death under New York law.
However, because the health conditions exposure to asbestos and similar materials may cause can develop years after initial exposure, these would be unique accidental deaths, which typically occur in a moment instead of years after the original incident that eventually caused the death. Only the spouse, children, and dependent parents of retirees whose deaths meet the above criteria are eligible to collect this “special circumstances” benefit.
Steps for Reporting a Death to NYSLRS
Once you understand whether you may file a New York State pension death notification, the process of actually doing so tends to be quite easy. Just follow these steps:
1. Get a certified death certificate
You’ll need to provide NYSLRS with a certified death certificate to notify them of a death and collect death benefits. Act quickly, as the Office of the New York State Comptroller’s office recommends contacting them as soon as possible in these circumstances.
If you’re not sure how to go about gathering the documentation you need, check our guide on how to get a death certificate.
2. Contact NYSLRS
The easiest way to contact NYSLRS is through the relevant contact page on the Office of the New York State Comptroller’s website. The page features an “I need to report a death” link. Click on it, and follow the steps as prompted.
3. Review materials
If you’ve followed the appropriate steps to contact NYSLRS and provided the necessary documentation, NYSLRS will typically respond by sending you information regarding death benefits, as well as any forms you will need to complete. Follow the directions to fill in the forms and mail them promptly.
It’s worth noting that NYSLRS may not be the only organization or company you need to notify after a loved one passes. Thus, it’s a good idea to put together a death notification checklist with your loved one now if they’re still alive. This can make the process of contacting all necessary parties much easier.
New York State Pension Death Notifications: A Simple Process
Although understanding how much a beneficiary may receive when a retired New York State public servant dies can involve reviewing somewhat complex options, the process of actually sending a notification to receive benefits isn't very challenging. Hopefully, this blog has helped you better understand how to proceed if you ever find yourself in this situation.
- “Death Benefits.” Office of the New York State Comptroller, www.osc.state.ny.us/retirement/retirees/death-benefits
- “Provisions for an Accidental Death Benefit.” Office of the New York State Comptroller, www.osc.state.ny.us/retirement/publications/world-trade-center/provisions-accidental-death-benefit