Can I change my beneficiary?

Can You Change Your Beneficiary After You Retire?

Can you change your beneficiary after you retire? That depends. If it’s the beneficiary for your pension, in most cases the answer is no. If you choose a pension payment option that provides a lifetime benefit for a surviving beneficiary, you cannot change that beneficiary, even if they die before you do. If your retirement plan provides a one-time, lump sum death benefit after you retire, you can change your beneficiary (or beneficiaries) for that benefit.

Can you change your beneficiary?

Available Pension Payment Options

At retirement, you will choose from a variety of pension payment options. After your pension becomes payable, you have up to 30 days to change your option. After that, you cannot change your pension payment option for any reason.

  • If you don’t want to leave a lifetime benefit to someone else, the Single Life Allowance option may be right for you, but you won’t be able to change your option and add a beneficiary later. For example, if you’re single when you retire and marry during retirement, you cannot change your option to one that provides a continuing benefit for your spouse.
  • If you want to leave a lifetime benefit to someone, there are several Joint Allowance options you can choose. After your death, if your beneficiary survives you, they will continue to receive all or part of your pension (depending on the specific option you choose) for the rest of their life. For these options, you can only name one beneficiary, and you cannot change that beneficiary after the 30-day window.
  • There are payment options that allow you to change your beneficiary. For example, with the Five Year Certain or Ten Year Certain options, you can change your beneficiary at any time, but these options only provide a short-term benefit for a survivor.

The Post-Retirement Death Benefit

Your pension is not your only NYSLRS retirement benefit. Most NYSLRS retirees are eligible for a death benefit if they retired directly from payroll or within one year of leaving covered employment. This post-retirement death benefit is a one-time, lump-sum payment. You can change your beneficiary for this benefit at any time, and your beneficiaries for this benefit do not have to be the same as your pension payment option beneficiary.

Visit our Death Benefits page for retirees for information about how your post-retirement death benefit is calculated and how to update your beneficiaries if you are retired.

If you have questions about beneficiaries, death benefits or pension payment options, please contact us.

29 thoughts on “Can You Change Your Beneficiary After You Retire?

  1. Joseph Miceli

    I have been retired for about 9 months now. I am wondering why on my check stub it breaks up my payments: Monthly Service Annuity and Monthly Service Annuity NT ?

    Reply
    1. NYSLRS

      For questions about your retirement benefit, please message our customer service representatives using our secure contact form. Filling out the secure form allows them to safely contact you about your personal account information.

      Reply
  2. P

    3 years and 8 months to get finalized. I have spoken to numerous retirees and this seems to be the average, just in case anyone is wondering.

    Reply
  3. Debra Kain

    I have sent many responces about my beneifciary it was entered wrong on your end and it is almost a year later and it has never been fixed!

    Reply
    1. NYSLRS

      We’re sorry for your loss.

      To request to increase your pension option to the Single Life Allowance, please send us a photocopy of your wife’s death certificate. You can send it to NYSLRS by attaching it to the secure contact form on our website, or you can mail it to:

      NYSLRS
      110 State Street
      Albany, NY 12244-0001

      Please include your name and your NYSLRS ID or retirement number with the death certificate.

      If you have additional questions, please call our customer service representatives at 866-805-0990, press 3, then 1.

      Reply
  4. Deborah Mantz

    I have pay out 100% my pension. I am getting a Divorce and I would love to pick another one. No way? 17% lost each year

    Reply
    1. NYSLRS

      When a NYSLRS member retires and chooses a pension payment option, they have up to 30 days after the last day of their retirement month to change their option. After that, retirees cannot change their pension payment option for any reason.

      For specific information about your benefits, please call our customer service representatives at 866-805-0990. The Call Center is available Monday through Friday from 7:30 am – 5:00 pm.

      You can also message them using the secure contact form on our website (http://www.emailNYSLRS.com).Filling out the secure form allows them to safely contact you about your personal account information.

      For more information about how divorce can affect your benefits, you may want to read our Divorce and Your Benefits publication.

      Reply
      1. Nicole

        Not being able to change your pension beneficiary is ABSURD! Not being able to redirect money when life circumstances and family dynamics shift is a horrible feeling! I do not understand this policy, particularly when people who retire from the state can make changes if need be!

        Reply
        1. NYSLRS

          NYSLRS retirement benefits are established by law. Whether you can change your pension beneficiary after you retire depends on the pension payment option you choose at retirement. It does not depend on whether you are a State or municipal employee.

          Reply
      2. Stacey Norton

        Does the 30-day period for option change include the ability to change the designated beneficiary as well, or strictly the payment option?

        Reply
        1. NYSLRS

          If you choose a joint-allowance or pop-up joint allowance option, you cannot change your beneficiary after the 30-day period. If you choose the five-year or ten-year certain option, you can change your beneficiary.

          If your retirement plan provides a one-time, lump sum death benefit after you retire (the post-retirement death benefit), you can change your beneficiary (or beneficiaries) for that benefit at any time.

          Reply
    1. NYSLRS

      If you are an active member (not retired), you can view your Member Annual Statement in your Retirement Online account. After you sign in, scroll down to ‘My Account Summary,’ then click the green “View My Member Annual Statement” button.

      If you are a retiree, Retiree Annual Statements were mailed out at the end of February and are not yet available online. In the meantime, you can view a “pay stub” of your pension benefit in Retirement Online. Your pay stub provides you with valuable insight into your monthly benefit and deduction amounts, and you’ll be able to track year-to-date totals for your benefit amount and any deductions made.

      To look up your pay stub, sign in to your Retirement Online account. From the top of your Account Homepage, in the ‘I want to’ section, click the “View Pension Check” link. You can also use Retirement Online to print a Pension Verification Letter (for retirees) or a Mortgage Verification Letter (for active members).

      If you have questions or need help with Retirement Online, please call our customer service representatives at 866-805-0990, press 2, then follow the prompts.

      Reply
  5. Caroline Finucane

    I was told by Eastman Kodak I could not setup beneficiary I could not get COLA and my monthly amount was based on me living till age 135!! This was set at retirement in 2003 yr retirement date at age 55

    Reply
    1. NYSLRS

      The New York State and Local Retirement System (NYSLRS) provides benefits for employees and retirees of New York State and of municipalities outside New York City. NYSLRS does not provide benefits to private-sector workers.

      Reply
  6. Alice McNally

    Hello,
    I want to change my federal monthly deduction from my NYS retirement disbursement from $0.00 (zero) to $25.00. How can I accomplish that, please?
    Thank you very much,
    Alice McNally

    Reply
    1. NYSLRS

      If you are eligible for a post-retirement death benefit, you may designate any person, or a trust or organization, to receive your death benefit — it does not have to be a family member. You can change that beneficiary at any time.

      You can find general guidelines about selecting a beneficiary on our website.

      However, if you are a retiree and you chose a pension payment option that provides a continuing monthly benefit for a survivor, changes must be made within 30 days after the pension benefit becomes payable. After the 30-day window is over, you cannot change your option or beneficiary.

      If you have questions about selecting a beneficiary, please message our customer service representatives using our secure contact form. Filling out the secure form allows them to safely contact you about your personal account information.

      Reply
  7. Ricardo Digno

    Can’t get on retirement online. I kept calling and kept waiting but not able to talk to and solve the problem re direct deposit
    I need to know the problem. Thank you.

    Reply
    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.

      Reply
      1. Albert White

        I would like to piggyback on Nichole’s comment; “Not being able to change your pension beneficiary is ABSURD! Not being able to redirect money when life circumstances and family dynamics shift is a horrible feeling! I do not understand this policy.”
        I found your response to Nichole’s question that, “it’s the law,” insulting to a reasonably request for information. At face value, the law is seemingly unfair to retirees who have worked all their lives for a pension which may end up benefiting someone that no longer are the wishes of the retiree. Your response, “It’s the law,” does not explain the rationale behind the law. Or, why this “law” does not to serve the best interest of a retirees reasonable and understandable request to change a beneficiary as described in the above comments. Thank you.

        Reply
        1. P

          Its out of their hands, i agree with you 100% but i think its something that would have to be pushed by members both active and retired and negotiated. Something tells me Albany would fight it.

          Reply
          1. Al White

            Thank you for your supportive comment. I agree, It would need collective action to negotiate with Albany. However, what is reasonable to ask of Albany is an understandable explanation. Something other than, “It’s the law” as to why this seemingly irrational beneficiary ruling persists despite knowing that any one of us could experience a significant life changing event that would necessitate a change of beneficiary.

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