Know Your Benefits: Death Benefits

NYSLRS membership provides more than just retirement benefits. For most members, if you die while in active service, your beneficiary may be eligible to receive a death benefit. Here is an overview of member death benefits. If you are retired, visit our Death Benefit page for retirees to learn about your available benefits.

death benefits

Types of Death Benefits

Most members who die while they’re still working will leave their beneficiaries what’s called an “ordinary death benefit.” This is a lump sum payment that’s usually equal to one year of your earnings per year of service, up to a maximum of three years. 

Generally, to leave your beneficiaries this death benefit, you must have at least one year of service credit and your death must occur while you are on the public payroll.

Some members who die because of an on-the-job accident (not due to their own willful negligence) may leave their beneficiary an accidental death benefit. The accidental death benefit is a pension payable to your spouse. Other beneficiaries, as specified by law, may be eligible if there is no spouse.

  • For Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) Tier 4, 5 and 6 members, the benefit would be 50 percent of your earnings from your last year of service.
  • For most other members, the benefit would be 50 percent of your final average earnings (less any workers’ compensation benefit).

There is no minimum service credit requirement to leave an accidental death benefit.

The specific death benefits that may be available to your beneficiaries depend on your tier and retirement plan. Find Your NYSLRS Retirement Plan Publication and check it for specific benefit amount and eligibility information.

Note: For public employees who contract COVID-19 on the job and die from COVID-19, their beneficiaries may be eligible for an enhanced death benefit. Find out more about the Enhanced Death Benefit for Survivors of COVID-19 Victims.

Review and Update Your Beneficiaries

You should periodically review your beneficiary designations. Life circumstances sometimes change, and the beneficiary you may have named before might not be the one you would choose today. You should also make sure your beneficiary’s contact information is up to date so we can find them when needed.

Retirement Online is the best way to manage your beneficiary information. Sign in to Retirement Online today and click “View and Update My Beneficiaries” to review your named beneficiaries, and update them if needed.

Reporting a Death

NYSLRS cannot pay out death benefits until after we are notified of a member’s death and have a certified copy of the death certificate. The fastest way for survivors to report a member’s death to NYSLRS is using our online form on our website. Survivors can also upload a copy of the certified death certificate, which enables us to start reaching out to the beneficiary. It’s important to talk with your family about your benefits and how to report your death to NYSLRS.

Payment of Death Benefits

NYSLRS will reach out to your beneficiaries on file and send them the application and instructions for receiving benefits. NYSLRS can pay death benefits once it receives the required documentation.

14 thoughts on “Know Your Benefits: Death Benefits

  1. Sal

    What happens if an nys police officer files for retirement and then passes prior to actual retirement date?

    1. NYSLRS Post author

      For most NYSLRS members, their beneficiaries are eligible for a death benefit if they die before retirement. You can find information about death benefits for State Police in the State Police retirement plan publication.

      If you have account-specific questions, 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.

    1. NYSLRS Post author

      We are sorry for your loss.

      Once we receive an original death certificate, we will mail information about any continuing pension benefits and death benefits that may be payable to named beneficiaries (or their certified representative, such as guardians, powers of attorney and executors). We will also send named beneficiaries the appropriate forms to complete.

    2. Jessie Brown

      Can a spouse attest the beneficiary after a sudden death? My husband passed away u expectedly 3 months after we got married, him nor I updated each other on our benefits as we thought we had more time. If his beneficiary was still is mother, as his spouse am I entitled to anything? My concern is paying back the funeral home for his services. I am currently past due.

      1. NYSLRS Post author

        We’re sorry for your loss. Information about death benefits and beneficiaries can depend on whether a NYSLRS member is retired or not and whether the death was the result of an on-the-job accident. For information about death benefit beneficiaries, please call 866-805-0990, press 3, then follow the prompts.

        1. Jessie Brown

          No he was not yet retired he had 17 years with the state ddso of Taconic. The death was not on the job either.

          1. NYSLRS Post author

            To speak with a customer service representative, please call 866-805-0990, press 3, then follow the prompts.

        2. Jessie Brown

          This does not answer my general question. My question is that if a spouse in the State of NY has the legal right to attest beneficiaries on a spouses life insurance specifically if they are newlyweds and if they both did not change any beneficiaries yet.

    1. NYSLRS

      Most NYSLRS retirees are eligible for a post-retirement death benefit if they retired directly from payroll or within one year of leaving covered employment. The post-retirement benefit is a percentage of the benefit available during your working years.

      For account-specific information about how this may apply in your particular situation, please email our customer service representatives using our secure email form. Filling out the secure form allows them to safely contact you about your personal account information.


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