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Prepare Your Affairs and Survivors

After you’re gone, will your loved ones know how to handle your affairs? Will they know where to find your important documents, such as your will? Will they be able to make sense of your finances? Putting these affairs in order now can better prepare your survivors during an already difficult time.

prepare your affairs and survivors

Organize Your Documents

The first step to putting your affairs in order is collecting assorted records, certificates and other paperwork in a secure place. You’ll also want to write down names and phone numbers for any friends or business associates who could be helpful (like your attorney, accountant, insurance agent and the executor of your will).

To help your survivors find these important documents, fill out a Where My Assets Are (VO1848) form. Review this list and update it as needed.

Talk to Your Loved Ones

You may not feel comfortable discussing your death, but all your preparation won’t do any good if you keep your wishes a secret. Once you’ve collected your files and put together a list, let your potential survivors know where your documents are and provide them with copies of your asset list.

Discuss your finances with your loved ones, including your children, if any of the money matters involve them. Explain your NYSLRS benefits (such as your death benefits) and let them know how to report your death to NYSLRS. They can complete the NYSLRS Report a Death Form or call us at 866-805-0990. Death benefits cannot be paid until we have a certified death certificate.

Be sure to also discuss your funeral and burial preferences and let your family know about any arrangements you have already made.

Other Steps to Take When Organizing Your Affairs

You may have already taken care of some of these steps as part of your estate planning, but it never hurts to go back and check to make sure they still reflect your wishes.

  • Work with an attorney to prepare a will or trust.
  • Review your beneficiary information in Retirement Online and make sure we have the correct contact information for your beneficiaries.
  • Consider advance directives, such as a durable power of attorney, living will, health care proxy or do-not-resuscitate order. If you have minor children, you may wish to name a guardian for them. If you have a child with a disability, consult a professional who can help you navigate Medicaid and Medicare.
  • Keep your loved ones apprised of any changes to your situation that may affect them.

Read Getting Your Affairs in Order and A Guide for Survivors and share this publication with your potential survivors. The second half provides information for your survivors and explains what to do and who to contact if a loved one dies.

Reporting a Member’s or Retiree’s Death to NYSLRS

When a NYSLRS member or retiree dies, it is important that survivors report the death to NYSLRS as soon as possible.

How Survivors Can Report a Death

Survivors can find the report a death form on the NYSLRS website.

The form has two parts: The first section is for the person reporting the death to enter information about themselves. They should be sure to include a phone number in case we need to contact them. In the second part, they should enter information about the deceased member or retiree. If they know the deceased’s NYSLRS ID or the last four digits of their Social Security number, they should enter that too.

reporting a death

Survivors can upload a photocopy of the death certificate so NYSLRS can begin identifying any benefits that may be payable. (Note: we will still need an original death certificate before any benefits are paid – see below.) The form is transmitted over a secure network.

Survivors can also report a death by calling our toll-free number at 1-866-805-0990 (or 518-474-7736 in the Albany, New York area), weekdays from 7:30 am to 5:00 pm. Once they reach the call menu, they should press 3, then 1. The call will be transferred to a customer service representative, who will ask for:

  • The deceased’s NYSLRS ID, retirement or registration number or Social Security number.
  • The date of death.

We may also ask for the addresses and phone numbers of immediate family members who may be beneficiaries. Please note: Our customer service representatives cannot release the identities of a member’s or retiree’s beneficiaries over the phone.

Mailing a Death Certificate

Before any death benefits can be processed or paid, NYSLRS will need an original, certified death certificate, even if a photocopy has already been submitted. The death certificate (and the sender’s contact information) should be mailed to:

NYSLRS
Attn: Survivor Services
110 State St
Albany, NY 12244

We recommend that death certificates be sent by certified mail, return receipt requested.

What Happens Next

Once we receive the death certificate, we will send named beneficiaries or their certified representatives (guardians, powers of attorney, executors) information about death benefits and, if applicable, information about any continuing pension benefits and death benefits that may be payable based on the member or retiree’s tier and retirement plan. We will also send named beneficiaries the appropriate forms to complete.

It could take several months from the date we are notified of a death to the date that any death benefit is paid. This is the average time necessary to recover any pension payments made after the retiree’s death and calculate any death benefit that may be due, as well as receive a certified copy of the death certificate, tax withholding forms and notarized forms from the named beneficiaries. Our top priority is paying a continuing pension benefit as soon as possible.

If a member is retired when he or she dies, we will stop payment of any outgoing pension benefits. We will automatically reclaim any direct deposit payments that went out after a member’s death. Survivors should be aware that any uncashed pension checks in a deceased retiree’s name must be returned to us.

Talk to Your Loved Ones

If you’re a NYSLRS member or retiree, you should talk to your loved ones and provide them with the information they’ll need when the time comes. Let them know your wishes, where to find important papers and what steps they will need to take. And if your documents are organized and accessible, it will make things that much easier.

Our publication Getting Your Affairs in Order and A Guide for Survivors provides step-by-step guidance about what should be done now and after a member’s or retiree’s death.

Enhanced Death Benefit for Survivors of COVID-19 Victims

COVID-19 has resulted in tens of thousands of deaths across New York State. Sadly, the pandemic’s victims include NYSLRS members who carried out their essential duties despite personal risk.

The families of these selfless members can take some comfort in knowing that they may be eligible for enhanced death benefits. A new law provides certain beneficiaries of public employees who contract COVID-19 on the job and die from COVID-19 with an accidental death benefit.

death benefit for survivors of COVID-19 victims

Most NYSLRS members are eligible for a death benefit if they die while in service; this “ordinary death benefit” provides a member’s designated beneficiary or beneficiaries a single, lump sum payment, worth up to three years’ salary. Alternatively, an “accidental death benefit” may be available to certain beneficiaries if the member’s death is a result of an on-the-job accident. The NYSLRS accidental death benefit is a pension paid to beneficiaries that are defined in statute, first to a surviving spouse, if no spouse to dependent children, then to dependent parent(s).

Generally, the accidental death benefit is equal to 50 percent of the member’s final average salary or last year’s salary depending on the retirement plan the member is enrolled in. You can find your retirement plan information on our Publications page. In addition to the accidental death benefit, a special accidental death benefit may also be payable to a member of the New York State and Local Police and Fire Retirement System.

“This new law is an important step toward protecting public workers who are on the front lines fighting the coronavirus and helping their communities,” said New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. “If something happens to them, they deserve their retirement benefits and the peace of mind that their families are provided for.”  

Eligibility Requirements

A NYSLRS member’s statutory beneficiary would be eligible for the accidental death benefit if the member:

  • Worked at either their normal workplace or another assigned workplace, not their residence, as directed by their employer, on or after March 1, 2020;
  • Contracted COVID-19 within 45 days of the last day that the member reported for work;
  • Died on or before December 31, 2022; and
  • Died from COVID-19 or COVID-19 caused or contributed to their death.

The COVID-19 benefit also applies to members who were working as of March 1 but retired prior to July 1, 2020. If the retiree met the eligibility requirements, contracted COVID at work or within 45 days of last reporting to work, and died after retiring, but on or before December 31, 2020, their statutory beneficiary has the option of converting the service retirement benefit or disability retirement benefit to an accidental death benefit.

The COVID-19 benefit is available for all NYSLRS members (Employees’ Retirement System as well as Police and Fire Retirement System members), regardless of job title, or tier.

How to Claim the Benefit

When someone calls NYSLRS to report a death, they should let us know it was COVID-related. We’ll also ask for an original death certificate. We will then reach out to the beneficiary to assist them in claiming the benefit. For the COVID-19 death benefit, NYSLRS will confirm with the employer the dates that the member reported to work and request the required documentation showing COVID-19 as the cause of death. The COVID-19 death benefit will be reduced by any ordinary death benefits paid out to a beneficiary by NYSLRS.

Where Are Your Important Documents?

We accumulate a lot of documents over a lifetime — things like birth certificates, diplomas, deeds, wills and insurance policies. If you’re like most people, you probably have papers stuffed in drawers, filing cabinets or boxes in the attic. If you ever needed an important document, do you think you could find it? What’s more, if you passed away, would your loved ones be able to find what they need?
where are your important documents?

Organize Your Important Documents

Important documents and contact information should be kept in a secure but accessible place in your home. This includes personal documents, such as your passport, birth certificate, marriage certificate, will and burial instructions. You should also include information about your retirement benefits, income taxes, bank accounts, credit cards and online accounts. And don’t forget the names and phone numbers of your attorney, accountant, stock broker, financial planner, insurance agent and executor of your will.

To make this a little easier, we’ve developed a fillable form called Where My Assets Are. Fill it out, print it and use it to organize your important papers. It will help you or your loved ones locate these documents when they are needed. It’s a good idea to review and update this information regularly.

Be aware that if you keep a safe deposit box, it may be sealed when you die. Don’t keep burial instructions, power of attorney or your will in a safe deposit box because these items may not be available until a probate judge orders the box to be opened. However, a joint lessee of the box, or someone authorized by you, would be permitted to open the box to examine and copy your burial instructions.

Get Your Affairs in Order

Read our publication Getting Your Affairs in Order and A Guide for Survivors for guidance about preparing your survivors, organizing your files, and who to contact if a loved one dies.