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Note that it can typically take at least one to two months upon receipt of a death certificate to process benefits. This range is an estimate only and is dependent on receiving prompt follow-up and documentation from beneficiaries. Complex accounts may take additional time.

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

Death benefits before retirement

In the event of your death, PERS should be notified right away and will require a photocopy of the death certificate. If you die before retirement, PERS will pay a death benefit to your spouse or to any other person who is constitutionally required to be treated in the same manner as a spouse for the purpose of retirement benefits. The death benefit will be for the life of your spouse. If the monthly death benefit is less than $200, the benefit will be paid in a single lump-sum that represents the actuarial equivalent of the death benefit.

The following benefits are applicable when a member dies on or after January 1, 2022:

  • If your date of death is before your earliest retirement eligibility date, the death benefit will be the actuarial equivalent of 50% of the pension that you would have received in retirement, calculated as if you became inactive on the date of death and retired at the earliest retirement date allowed.
  • If your date of death is on or after your earliest retirement eligibility date, the death benefit will be the actuarial equivalent of 100% of the pension that you would have received in retirement, calculated as if you had retired as of the first of the month following the date of death.

Your surviving spouse may begin receiving death benefits effective as of the first of the month following your date of death. Your spouse may delay payment, but payment must commence no later than December 31 of the year in which you would have reached age 70½ (if born before July 1, 1949) or age 72 (if born after June 30, 1949). Payments delayed by over a year will be actuarially adjusted when payment commences.

Death benefits after retirement

PERS should be notified immediately upon your death and will require a photocopy of your death certificate. When you retire, you may elect to receive a monthly pension benefit that provides survivorship benefits. You may choose from one of the following options for a monthly benefit payable for your lifetime:

  • Full Survivorship Option — If you die, this option will pay a pension benefit at the same amount to your beneficiary for their lifetime.
  • Full Survivorship with Increase Option — Under this option, your pension benefit may revert to the higher paying Single Life Option if your beneficiary dies during your retirement or if you divorce your beneficiary after you retire. If neither of these events occur, this option will pay your beneficiary a pension benefit at the same amount for their lifetime.
  • Half Survivorship Option — If you die, this option will pay your beneficiary half the amount of your pension benefit for your beneficiary's lifetime.

OR

  • Half Survivorship with Increase Option — Under this option, your pension benefit may revert to the higher paying Single Life Option if your beneficiary dies during your retirement or if you divorce your beneficiary after you retire. If neither of these events occur, this option will pay your beneficiary half the amount of your pension benefit for your beneficiary's lifetime.

If you chose a benefit option that reverts to the higher paying Single Life Option upon death or dissolution of marriage between you and your beneficiary, the effective date of the adjusted benefit is the first day of the month following the date the qualifying event occurred.

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 nonspouse beneficiary are subject to different time frames in which they must begin receiving benefits.

Individual Account Program (IAP)

Any balance in your IAP account will be paid as a lump sum to your designated IAP beneficiaries or per statute in the event PERS does not have a valid IAP designation of beneficiary on file. IAP statute 238A.410 (3) pays in the following order of priority:

  1. The member's surviving spouse or other person who is constitutionally required to be   treated in the same manner as a spouse.
  2. The member's surviving children, in equal shares.
  3. The member's estate.

To comply with required minimum distribution rules, the entire amount of your IAP must be distributed by December 31 of the fifth calendar year after the year of your death.

Employee Pension Stability Account (EPSA)

EPSA is used to fund your retirement.​ As such if you die after you retire, EPSA will already have been exhausted and will not be payable to a beneficiary.

If you die before retirement, any balance in your EPSA will first be applied to any OPSRP death pension benefit costs accrued after July 1, 2020. Any EPSA remaining will be paid as a lump sum to your designated IAP beneficiaries or per IAP statute in the event PERS does not have a valid IAP designation of beneficiary on file.​