Please note it can typically take 1-2 months upon receipt of a death certificate to process retroactive benefits. Note this range is an estimate only and is dependent on receiving prompt follow-up and documentation from beneficiaries. Complex accounts may also take more time, as can accounts where members did not have accurate beneficiary information submitted. 

Your communication and correct completion of forms in a timely manner can help improve this process.‚Äč

In the event of your death, a member or representative of your family must call PERS Member Services at 888-320-7377 (toll free) and report it as soon as possible. PERS will request a photocopy of the death certificate.

Death Benefits Before Retirement

Death Benefit Payment Options

If you die before retirement, your beneficiary must choose one of the following payment options:

Total Distribution: Refund of 100 percent of your member account balance and employer-matching death benefit, if eligible.

Straight Life Annuity (pension): Lifetime monthly benefit from your member account balance and employer-matching death benefit, if eligible. (The monthly benefit must be at least $30 per month).

Partial Distribution Plus Pension: Distribution of 100 percent of your member account balance, in addition to a monthly lifetime pension from the employer-matching death benefit, if eligible. (The monthly benefit must be at least $30 per month.)

Employer-Matching Death Benefit

The employer-matching death benefit is payable if any of the following apply:

  • you were not receiving retirement benefits, and you died while actively employed in a PERS-covered position;
  • you died while on official leave without pay* from a PERS employer; or
  • you died within 120 days after the last day of paid employment with a PERS employer.

* Your employer must approve in writing an official leave of absence without pay for a specified time period and submit it to PERS.

Your beneficiary should contact his or her tax advisor or the Internal Revenue Service regarding the tax implications of death benefits.

Police Officer and Firefighter Unit Benefits
If you purchased police officer and firefighter unit benefits and you die before retirement, the amount in your unit account is refunded to your beneficiary. There is no matching employer amount.

Death Benefits After Retirement

Benefit Payments

If you die after you have retired, the payment option you selected at the time you retired will determine the benefits due to any beneficiary.

When you die, PERS stops issuing benefit payments. Any payments issued after you die must be returned to PERS. Following your death, PERS will notify any beneficiaries in writing of their eligibility for benefits. If no payments are due, PERS will notify the family in writing.

If you are a retired police officer or firefighter, on the date of your death, your surviving spouse or minor children are entitled to 25 percent of the refund annuity amount, regardless of the retirement option you selected at retirement.

Police Officer and Firefighter Unit Death Benefits
If you are a retired police officer or firefighter receiving unit benefits after retirement and you die before receiving all unit benefit payments, your beneficiary will receive the actuarial value of the unpaid units. Your beneficiary will not receive continued monthly payments.

Taxation of Death Benefits

Before choosing a payment option, PERS recommends you obtain tax information from the Internal Revenue Service and the Oregon Department of Revenue or a qualified tax advisor. Required minimum distribution rules and restrictions may apply to death benefits. Also, your surviving spouse beneficiary and/or non-spouse beneficiary are subject to different time frames in which they must begin receiving benefits. 

Under the Internal Revenue Code, distributions by reason of an employee's death that occurred before August 22, 1996, may qualify for a death benefit exclusion of up to $5,000. This exclusion must be applied for when filing tax returns. It is not reported by PERS to the IRS on the final 1099R, per IRS instructions.