Death Benefits

Death Benefits
Several types of death benefits are available through NYSTRS.
Contact Us

(800) 348-7298, Ext. 6110
communit@nystrs.org

The following is a summary of death benefits, the eligibility for which depends on your membership status and, in certain cases, the cause or timing of your death.

In addition to receiving your member contributions balance, your designated beneficiary may receive a death benefit if you die before retiring.

Eligibility

You are covered by an in-service death benefit if you have been credited with at least three months (Tier 1) or one year (Tiers 2-6) of service since last becoming a member, and at the time of death:

  • You were in service being paid for employment reportable to this system; or,
  • If you are a Tier 1 member, you had been in service within the previous year and had not otherwise been gainfully employed (other than in service reportable to NYSTRS) since leaving teaching; or,
  • If you are a Tier 2-6 member, you had been in service within the previous year and had at least one year of continuous employment since last entering your employer's service and had not otherwise been gainfully employed (other than in service reportable to NYSTRS) since leaving teaching; or,
  • You had left the payroll because of a disability and had remained disabled until death (Tier 1) or died while on an approved medical leave (Tiers 2-6).

Tier 1 Calculation

The greater of the following:

  • One-twelfth of your last 12 months of regular compensation for each year of service, to a maximum of three times your earnings; or,
  • The Death Gamble Benefit. Please contact us at (800) 348-7298, Ext. 6110 for more information. (Note: To be eligible for this increased benefit, you must be eligible to retire without any service credit-related reductions in your pension.)

Tiers 2-6 Calculation

Under legislation enacted in 2000, all Tier 2-6 members will be covered by the Paragraph 2 Death Benefit, unless they selected Paragraph 1 (see Tier 1 Calculation above) and it is greater than Paragraph 2. All members joining on or after Jan. 1, 2001, will be covered by the Paragraph 2 Death Benefit.

The benefit is one year's salary* after a year of service, increasing to a maximum of three years' salary after three years or more of service. The benefit is reduced after age 60 by 4% per year, up to a maximum reduction of 40% at age 70. (Reductions begin at age 61; age is not rounded and the reduction is not prorated.)

Under Paragraph 2, if the in-service death benefit is in effect when you retire, coverage may continue after retirement. The benefit would be:

  • 1st Year: 50% of the death benefit in effect at retirement;
  • 2nd Year: 25% of the benefit at retirement; and,
  • 3rd & Ensuing Years: 10% of the benefit in effect at retirement (or at age 60, if you retire after age 59).

To be eligible for the continued coverage in retirement, you must retire no later than one year after you leave the payroll. Employment, other than teaching with a NYSTRS participating employer, between the date you ceased teaching and the date of your retirement will jeopardize your eligibility for this benefit.

*The law limits the amount of salary that can be used in the calculation of the Paragraph 2 Death Benefit. Please see your latest Benefit Profile for this amount.

Naming Beneficiaries

Any number of primary and contingent beneficiaries may be named, but you must designate at least one primary beneficiary. The same person or persons cannot be designated as both primary and contingent beneficiaries. We can make payment to a contingent beneficiary(ies) only if all primary beneficiaries die before the contingent beneficiary(ies) and you have not changed your designation to provide for a new primary beneficiary(ies). To designate a tertiary beneficiary, please contact the System for additional instructions. If you survive all of the beneficiaries named, we would pay your estate.

You may change your beneficiary designation(s) prior to retirement by filing a Designation of Beneficiary (NET-11.4) form.

If you die as the result of an accident sustained in the performance of your duties, certain surviving family members may be entitled to receive an accidental death benefit in lieu of an in-service death benefit. The annual  payment to your beneficiary would be 50% of the regular salary earned during  your last year of service.

You are covered by a vested death benefit if you have at least 10 years of service credit, are not covered by the in-service death benefit, and die before retirement. It would equal one-half of the in-service death benefit that would have been paid if you had died on the last day of creditable service.

Naming Beneficiaries

Any number of primary and contingent beneficiaries may be named, but you must designate at least one primary beneficiary. The same person or persons cannot be  designated as both primary and contingent beneficiaries. We can make payment to a contingent beneficiary(ies) only if all primary beneficiaries die before the contingent beneficiary(ies) and you have not changed your designation to provide for a new primary beneficiary(ies). To designate a tertiary beneficiary, please contact the System for additional instructions. If you survive all of the  beneficiaries named, we would pay your estate.

You may change your beneficiary designation(s) prior to retirement by filing  a Designation of Beneficiary (NET-11.4) form.

You may elect to receive a one-time only payment while living if you qualify for a disability retirement benefit (the 10 years service credit requirement is waived) and have either a terminal illness resulting in a life expectancy of no  more than 12 months or a medical condition requiring extraordinary care or treatment. The benefit is paid in lieu of both a monthly retirement benefit and a death benefit paid to a beneficiary. The payment is equal to the death benefit to which you would be entitled if you had died on your last day of reportable service.

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