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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

Employer-matching death benefit

The employer-matching death benefit is an employer match of your PERS Tier One or Tier Two member account balance. The employer match is a component in funding death benefits and will increase benefits payable to your beneficiary. Your account may be eligible for employer-matching death benefits 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.
  • 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.

Death benefit payment options

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

  • Total distribution — Receive a single lump-sum payment of 100% of your PERS Tier One or Tier Two member account balance and employer-matching death benefit, if eligible.
  • Straight life annuity (pension) — Receive a lifetime monthly benefit funded by your member account balance and employer-matching death benefit, if eligible. The monthly benefit must be at least $200 per month.
  • Partial distribution plus pension — Receive a single lump-sum payment of 100% of your PERS Tier One or Tier Two member account balance and a lifetime monthly benefit funded by the employer-matching death benefit. This option is only available if your account is eligible for the employer-matching death benefit and the monthly portion of the benefit is at least $200 per month.

Optional Spouse Death Benefit (OSDB)

If you die before retirement, your surviving spouse may be eligible for a fourth payment option, the Optional Spouse Death Benefit, which will be paid monthly for the surviving spouse's lifetime. If the monthly OSDB benefit is less than $200, this option will be paid as a single lump sum that represents the actuarial equivalent of the OSDB.

To be eligible:

  • Your date of death must be on or after January 1, 2022. (Note: 2020 and 2021 deaths that were eligible for OSDB were subject to different rules.)
  • Your account must be eligible for the employer-matching death benefit (as described above).
  • You must have a surviving spouse.
  • Your surviving spouse must be your sole beneficiary as determined by a valid Tier One/Tier Two Pre-Retirement Beneficiary Designation form on file with PERS.
  • Your surviving spouse must make written election no later than 60 days after your date of death.

The PERS Death Benefits team analyzes accounts for OSDB eligibility and sends eligible surviving spouses the Tier One/Tier Two Beneficiary Estimate Request for Optional Spouse Death Benefit form. PERS' receipt of this estimate request form, if received no later than 60 days after your date of death, will provisionally establish your surviving spouse's eligibility to elect the OSDB option.

Next, PERS will provide your surviving spouse with an estimate of the three payment options detailed in the “Death Benefit Payment Options" section above and an estimate for the OSDB option.

The following OSDB 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, OSDB is the actuarial equivalent of 50% of the pension 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, OSDB is the actuarial equivalent of 100% of the pension you would have received in retirement, calculated as if you had retired as of the first of the month following the date of death.

The OSDB effective date is the first of the month after your date of death unless your spouse delays benefits for a year or more after your date of death. Payments delayed by over a year are actuarially adjusted based on the delayed benefit effective date.

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, no further retirement benefits are payable to you. It is important that your family quickly notifies PERS of your death because any payments issued after you die must be returned to PERS. An invoice will be issued for any overpaid retirement benefits. 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, upon your death, your surviving spouse or minor children are entitled to 25% of your unmodified retirement allowance , 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 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 and your account is eligible for employer-matching death benefits, any balance in your EPSA will first be applied to Tier One/Tier Two 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.

If you die before retirement and your account is not eligible for employer-matching death benefits, any balance in your EPSA 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.​