Your Death Benefit Beneficiaries

NYSLRS retirement plans provide death benefits for beneficiaries of eligible members who die before retiring. If you are retired, your beneficiaries may be entitled to a post-retirement death benefit.

It’s important to name beneficiaries and review them periodically. Life circumstances sometimes change, and the beneficiary you named before might not be the one you would choose today. For example, if you just married, you may want to update your NYSLRS account information to name your new spouse as your beneficiary.

2 Types of Beneficiaries

  • Your primary beneficiary will receive your death benefit. You can list more than one primary beneficiary. If you do, they will share the benefit equally. Or you can choose different percentages for each beneficiary to total 100 percent. (Example: John Doe, 50 percent; Jane Doe, 25 percent; and Mary Doe, 25 percent.)
  • A contingent beneficiary will only receive a benefit if all your primary beneficiaries die before you do. If you list multiple contingent beneficiaries, they will share the benefit equally unless you choose different percentages.

Special Beneficiary Designations

Your beneficiary doesn’t have to be a person. You can name a charity, a trust or your estate as your beneficiary.

Special Beneficiary Designations for Your NYSLRS Death Benefit
  • Estate. When you die, your estate is the money and property you owned. Your death benefit will be given to the executor of your estate to be distributed according to the terms of your will. You can name your estate as the primary or contingent beneficiary of your death benefit. If you name your estate as the primary beneficiary, do not name a contingent beneficiary.
  • Trust. You can name a trust as a primary or contingent beneficiary if you have a trust agreement or provided for a trust in your will. The trust itself would be your beneficiary, not the individuals for whom you established the trust. (Speak with your attorney if you’re thinking about making your trust a beneficiary.)
  • Entity. You can also name any charitable, civic, religious, educational or health-related organization as a beneficiary.
  • Minor children. If your beneficiary is under the age of 18 at the time of your death, your benefit will be paid to the child’s court-appointed guardian. You may instead choose a custodian to receive the benefit on the child’s behalf under the Uniform Transfers to Minors Act (UTMA). Custodians can be designated in Retirement Online or you can contact us for more information and the appropriate form before making this type of designation.

Keep Your Beneficiaries Up to Date

You can change your beneficiaries at any time. In addition to adding or removing them to reflect your current wishes, you should review the contact information for your named beneficiaries so we can find them when needed.

The fastest way to view or update your beneficiaries is in Retirement Online.

Find More Information

If you are not yet retired, you can read more about beneficiary designations in Life Changes: Why Should I Designate a Beneficiary?

If you are retired, you may wish to read our Can You Change Your Beneficiary After You Retire? blog post.

12 thoughts on “Your Death Benefit Beneficiaries

  1. Tanya Lindsay

    My Mother passed last fall and I have not yet received a check. Please update me on situation.

  2. Stephen DAeCoro

    I am having difficulty making contact with your office. My Mother passed away
    over year and half ago and I haven’t received my beneficiary check that was payable to me. I called the number provided to be on hold for 95 minutes and then was disconnected. This is not right.
    Please contact me through email

  3. Lisa Donay

    On the passing of my husband, I recieved a letter pertaining to the benefits payable to me as a designated beneficiary. I also received a beneficiary application lump sum payment form and a beneficiary certification. I am having difficulty understanding the difference between the two and I want to find out where I go from here. Thank you

    1. NYSLRS Post author

      We would like to extend our condolences on the passing of your husband. Your message is important to us, and we have sent you a private message in response.

  4. Myra

    My dad oassed away 12/2023. My mom is the beneficiary. We received a letter indicating monthly dollar amount. However, to date no monies received. Telephone line always says “high call volume, try again the next day”. Telephone call now says “your information is not recognized”. My mom is elderly, my dad listed her as beneficiary, precisely, so as to support her shoud he pass away. And now, my mom is suffering financial hardships. We ask, please, answer the phones!

    1. NYSLRS

      We would like to extend our condolences on the passing of your father.

      Your message is important to us, and we have sent you a private message in response.

  5. Carol

    My niece died, in service, in October. We received the paperwork in December, returned early January. We have not heard anything from NYS retirement. We spoke with a rep in December and was told everything was ok. Should we have heard something by now. The beneficiary was a trust. Thank you for any info.

    1. NYSLRS Post author

      We would like to extend our condolences on the passing of your niece.

      For questions about death benefits, please contact the NYSLRS Call Center at 866-805-0990 and press 3. The Call Center is available Monday through Friday from 7:30 am – 5:00 pm.

    1. NYSLRS

      We’d like to help resolve your issue. Your message is important to us, and we have sent you a private message in response. 


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