Tag Archives: beneficiary designations

NYSLRS Basics: Special Beneficiary Designations

As a NYSLRS member, it’s important for you to name beneficiaries. When you die, your beneficiaries may be eligible to receive a death benefit. You can choose anyone you wish to receive your death benefit; it does not have to be a family member. In fact, it doesn’t even have to be a person. You can name your estate, a charity or a trust, but it helps to know how these special beneficiary designations work.

There are two main types of beneficiaries. A primary beneficiary is someone you choose to receive your benefit if you die. A contingent beneficiary would receive the benefit if the primary beneficiary dies before you. If a beneficiary dies before you, you should update your beneficiary information to ensure that your benefit is distributed according to your wishes. You can name more than one primary or contingent beneficiary.

Retirement Online is the convenient and secure way to update your beneficiaries. If you don’t already have an online account, you can learn more on our website.

Benefit Distribution

If you name more than one primary beneficiary, each will share the benefit equally. You can also have a certain percentage of the benefit paid to each beneficiary. The percentages don’t have to be equal, but they must add up to 100 percent. (For example, John Doe, 50 percent; Jane Doe, 25 percent; and Mary Doe, 25 percent). The same rule applies for multiple contingent beneficiaries.

Special Beneficiary Designations

Here are the rules pertaining to special beneficiary designations:

special beneficiary designations

Trusts

If you have executed a trust agreement or provided for a trust in your will, your trust can be your primary or contingent beneficiary. To name a trust, sign in to Retirement Online or use our Trust with Contingent Beneficiaries form (RS5127-T).  We’ll need a copy of your trust document, which you can mail to NYSLRS.

With this type of designation, the trust is the beneficiary, not the individuals who will receive the trust. If you revoke the trust or it expires, you will want to make new beneficiary designations as soon as possible to ensure benefits are paid according to your wishes.

You should talk to a lawyer if you’d like more information on trust agreements.

Estates

You may name your estate as the primary or contingent beneficiary of your death benefit. If you name your estate as your primary beneficiary, you cannot name a contingent. If a benefit is payable, the executor of your estate will distribute it according to your will.

Entities

You may name any charitable, civic, religious, educational or health-related organization as a primary or contingent beneficiary.

Minor Children

If your beneficiary is under age 18 at the time of your death, your benefit will be paid to the child’s court-appointed guardian. You may also choose a custodian to receive the benefit on the child’s behalf under the Uniform Transfers to Minors Act (UTMA). Before making this type of designation, please contact us for more information.

More Information

Please note that some of these beneficiary designations will be subject to a NYSLRS legal review.

For more information, please read our publication “Why Should I Designate a Beneficiary?” You can find your current NYSLRS beneficiaries listed in Retirement Online, or in your Member Annual Statement, which is sent out every summer.

Four Facts about Divorce and Your Pension

Courts consider pensions marital property. So, if you file for divorce, a judge may award your ex-spouse part of your pension or other NYSLRS benefits. The process for dividing retirement assets after a divorce can be complex. Here are four things you need to know:

1. NYSLRS Requires a DRO

To divide your NYSLRS benefits, we need a domestic relations order (DRO). This court order, issued after a final judgment of divorce, gives us specific instructions on how your benefits should be distributed. NYSLRS provides on online fillable DRO that complies with the plan’s requirements for implementation. You are not required to use the online form; however, the System will give priority review to these DROs since the language is pre-approved.

2. A Judge has to Approve Your DRO

Before we can implement a DRO, a trial court judge must review and sign it, and you need to file it with the appropriate County Clerk’s Office. That can be a lengthy process; our Matrimonial Bureau can check your DRO for compliance with the law before you submit the draft order to the court. This way, if the DRO does not meet the requirements, you will have a chance to make revisions.

Once a judge does sign off, we’ll need a certified copy of the DRO and your judgment of divorce. We start payments to your ex-spouse once we’ve calculated and finalized your retirement benefit. If we receive the DRO and judgment before we finalize your retirement benefit, we’ll make retroactive payments back to your date of retirement.

3. Some Beneficiary Designations are Revoked

Reviewing your beneficiary designations periodically is always important, but after a divorce, it’s essential to make sure your benefits will be distributed according to your wishes. As of July 7, 2008, beneficiary designations for certain benefits are revoked when a divorce, annulment or judicial separation becomes final. Please read our Guide to Domestic Relations Orders and review our DRO FAQs before you finalize your divorce.

4. Contact an Attorney with DRO Experience

This last one is not a fact, but it’s a good idea. A lawyer, who’s worked with DROs previously, can help ensure the DRO you submit to the court fairly represents the intentions of both parties.

How Can NYSLRS Help?

We developed an online template  that makes it easier to create a properly formatted DRO. Just enter your tier, plan and employment status, and answer the questions that follow.

To submit your proposed DRO for review, email it, along with scanned copies of your judgment of divorce, to our Matrimonial Bureau at dro@osc.state.ny.us. For DRO proposals prepared using our online worksheet, the review process is simplified and we can complete our review faster.

If you have any questions about divorce and your benefits, please contact our Hearing Administration and Matrimonial Bureau staff.

Email: dro@osc.state.ny.us

Address:
NYSLRS 110 State Street
Mail Drop 7-9
Albany, New York 12244

The Top 5 Things NYSLRS Members Need to Know About Retirement and Divorce

The most important thing you need to know is that if you divorce, your ex-spouse may be entitled to a portion of your pension or other New York State & Local Retirement System (NYSLRS) benefits. But determining how to divide retirement assets in your NYSLRS plan as a result of a divorce can be complex. Knowing these five key points can provide some clarity:

NYSLRS Requires a Domestic Relations Order (DRO)

For divorcing NYSLRS members, any division of your retirement benefits must be stated in the form of a domestic relations order (DRO) – a court order issued after a final judgment of divorce that gives us specific instructions on how your benefits should be distributed to your former spouse.

Without A DRO, NYSLRS Will Not Provide Your Ex-Spouse Any Portion of Your Pension.

The pension that you receive is a benefit held in trust by NYSLRS and you are considered the beneficiary of that trust. You cannot assign retirement benefits to another person and, because NYSLRS has no legal relationship with an ex-spouse, no payments will be made to an ex-spouse based on a separation agreement or judgment of divorce alone.

Prepare the DRO before you finish the divorce

The DRO must be signed by a trial court judge and entered with the appropriate County Clerk’s Office before it can be implemented. Our Matrimonial Bureau may review your DRO for compliance with the law before you submit the draft order to the court. This way, if the DRO does not meet the requirements, you will have a chance to make revisions.

We require a certified copy of the signed DRO and a copy of your judgment of divorce prior to implementing the terms of the DRO. Payments to your ex-spouse will start when your retirement benefit is calculated and finalized, and will be retroactive to your date of retirement if we receive the DRO and judgment of divorce before your retirement benefit is finalized.

Change your beneficiary designations on your retirement benefits after your divorce.

It is especially important to review your beneficiary designations to ensure your benefits will be distributed according to your wishes. Effective July 7, 2008, beneficiary designations for certain benefits are revoked when a divorce, annulment or judicial separation becomes final. Please read our Guide to Domestic Relations Orders and review our DRO FAQs before you finalize your divorce.

Contact an attorney with DRO experience

He or she can help you ensure the DRO you submit to the court fairly represents the intentions of the parties.

How Can NYSLRS Help?

We recently developed an online worksheet, which helps you create your own DRO easily in the proper format. Just enter your tier, plan, employment status and answer the questions that follow. Then, submit a copy of your proposed DRO to us for review before you submit it to the court. You can email it, along with scanned copies of your judgment of divorce, to our Matrimonial Bureau at dro@osc.state.ny.us. DRO proposals that are prepared using this form will be given priority review.

If you have any questions about divorce and your benefits, please contact our Hearing Administration & Matrimonial Bureau staff by email at dro@osc.state.ny.us, by writing to 110 State Street – Mail Drop 7-9, Albany, New York 12244, or by fax at 518-474-7794.