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Beneficiaries

Claims/Information

How should the death of a member be reported to TRS?

When a member dies, a certified or original death certificate must be sent to TRS. The following information about the member must also be provided: the member's name, TRS membership number, Social Security number, and date of death. The person reporting the death must also provide his/her name, address, and phone number.

For more information, please see the Guide to Death Benefits for Beneficiaries of Retired Members or the Guide to Death Benefits for Beneficiaries of Non-Retired Members .

What documentation must be submitted in order to claim a death benefit?

A member's beneficiary (or representative) must first submit a certified or original death certificate for the member; (s)he must also submit a Claimant's Statement (code DB17) . We will inform them of additional documentation and forms they may have to file.

For more information, please see the Guide to Death Benefits for Beneficiaries of Retired Members or the Guide to Death Benefits for Beneficiaries of Non-Retired Members .

Why does TRS require that original documents (instead of photocopies) be submitted for death benefit claims?

TRS requires original documents to ensure that they have not been altered.

Must any payments be returned to TRS after a member dies?

Yes. TRS must receive all Qualified Pension Plan (QPP) retirement allowance payments that were cashed or directly deposited after the member's death in order to process any benefits payable. If any QPP retirement allowance checks received by the retiree in or after the month of his/her death were not cashed, they must be returned to TRS. If the checks were cashed, deposited, or credited to the member's account through Electronic Fund Transfer (EFT), the money must be refunded by check or money order that is made payable to the "Teachers' Retirement System of the City of New York." We will inform beneficiaries of the amount due to TRS.

Why are beneficiaries required to return any retirement allowance checks the retiree received in or after the month of death?

When a retiree dies before the last day of a month, that month's check is no longer payable to the member. A fraction of the payment, representing the portion of the month the member was alive, is payable to a fractional beneficiary, whom the member designated on his/her retirement application. The remaining portion of the payment is payable as part of the regular death benefit.

If any retirement allowance payments were cashed or directly deposited after the member's death, TRS will contact his/her beneficiaries to inform them of the total amount due. TRS must receive payment in order to process any benefits payable.

How long does it take to process a death benefit payment?

It’s important to keep in mind that death benefits cannot be paid immediately or automatically upon notification of a member’s death.

Benefits are paid approximately two months after TRS receives a claimant’s complete online death benefit claim (including notarized proof of claim submission). No benefits can be paid unless TRS has received all required information; documentation/forms (including an original death certificate or certified copy); and any funds owed to TRS.

Why does it take so long to process a death benefit payment?

Processing a death benefit is a complex process. If the deceased was a retiree, all Qualified Pension Plan (QPP) payments issued after the member's death must be returned to TRS; in addition, any retroactive amounts due the estate must be calculated before the death benefit due can be determined.

If the deceased was an in-service member, TRS must verify the member's complete service and salary history, which involves obtaining information from the member's former employers. TRS must also adjust QPP account balances to reflect any loans or excess distributions. TRS must then manually calculate the benefits and generate a benefits letter, and the Office of the Actuary must certify the case.

For more information, please see the Guide to Death Benefits for Beneficiaries of Retired Members or the Guide to Death Benefits for Beneficiaries of Non-Retired Members .

When a member dies, how can beneficiaries find out what the death benefit will be?

In most cases, TRS sends each beneficiary (or legal representative) a death benefit notification letter approximately four weeks after we are notified of a member’s death AND we obtain all required information.

The notification letter indicates the benefits due and any payments that are owed to TRS. Also included is a unique claim code that the beneficiary can use to initiate an online death benefit claim on TRS’ website.

Beneficiaries should keep in mind that their notification letter may be delayed if TRS has difficulty obtaining information or documentation required to calculate benefits. This includes contact information for beneficiaries, returned payments for retired members, and full service/salary history for in-service members.

What is a spousal right of election, and how could it affect the distribution of benefits after the death of a TRS member?

When a TRS member or TRS beneficiary dies, New York State law provides that his/her spouse may elect a share of the deceased spouse's net estate,^ even if the spouse was not designated as a beneficiary. The elective share is the greater of $50,000, or one-third of the net estate. If the net estate is less than $50,000, the elective share is the net estate. Benefits from TRS' Qualified Pension Plan (QPP) and Tax-Deferred Annuity (TDA) Program accounts are included in calculating the net estate.

Please note that the rules described above do not apply to divorced spouses. They also do not apply if the decedent designated the beneficiary of the TRS benefits on or before September 1, 1992 and did not subsequently change the beneficiary designation.

^The net estate, as defined by New York State statute, consists of the net probate assets, as well as testamentary substitutes.

How do I exercise a spousal right of election for TRS benefits?

If you are the spouse of a TRS member or TRS beneficiary, New York State law provides that you may elect a share of your deceased spouse's estate even if you were not named as a beneficiary. If TRS has not yet distributed the benefits payable upon the death of a member or beneficiary, we will refrain from making a death benefit payment or transfer to the designated beneficiaries upon being served with a certified copy of a court order instructing us to do so.

Generally, you must exercise a right of election within six months from the date of issuance of letters testamentary or of letters of administration, and generally must assert this right no later than two years after the date of the decedent's death. For more information, please see the What is a spousal right of election, and how could it affect the distribution of benefits after the death of a TRS member? FAQ above.

TRS strongly urges you to consult with an attorney if you are contemplating exercising a spousal right of election. TRS will be held harmless and free from any liability for making any payment or transfer to a person who would be otherwise entitled to such funds if not for the surviving spouse's exercise of a right of election. In all cases, the specific provisions of the governing laws, rules, and regulations will prevail.

How can a child claim a death benefit from TRS?

If a minor (generally, a child under 18 years of age) is eligible for a TRS death benefit, TRS requires that a court-appointed guardian of the child’s property file on behalf of the minor and take custody of any benefits paid in the manner directed by the court. 

If the child is legally emancipated, TRS requires a certified copy of the emancipation order.

What kind of guardianship does TRS require?

The guardian must be granted specific authority over the child's property. This is often called a "guardian of the property" and is different from a "guardian of the person."

If I am a guardian of a child's property, how do I inform TRS of my status?

Please submit to TRS a certified copy of the court order establishing the guardianship. This document, often called a "letter of guardianship," must specify that you are the guardian of the child's property. After TRS has reviewed and approved the order, TRS will permit you to take actions permitted by the order on behalf of the child.

Isn't a parent automatically the guardian of his/her child?

No. Parents are not automatically guardians of their children's property.

If a court awarded me custody of the child, is that sufficient proof of guardianship?

Not necessarily. A custody order entered in connection with a divorce often only creates a guardianship over the child's person, not the child's property. For the purpose of a TRS benefit application, the custody order must explicitly create a guardianship over the child's property. If this is not explicitly stated in the custody order, TRS requires separate documentation.

How do I become a guardian of a child's property?

The process is generally governed by the law of the state where the child resides. TRS is unable to provide legal advice about specific situations.

At what age is a guardian no longer necessary?

In general, a guardian is no longer necessary once a child turns 18.  However, events such as a court-ordered emancipation could lower this age in specific cases.

Death Benefits

When a retiree dies, what benefits may be payable?

A death benefit, representing all or part of the member's retirement allowance under the Qualified Pension Plan (QPP), may be payable to a designated beneficiary or the member's estate; this would be based upon the payment option that the member chose at retirement. In addition, a fractional payment of the retirement allowance payment for the month in which the member died would be payable to a designated beneficiary, as long as the member did not die on the last day of the month.

For more information, please see the Guide to Death Benefits for Beneficiaries of Retired Members and the If the member participated in TRS' Tax-Deferred Annuity (TDA) Program, what TDA benefits may be payable? FAQ below.

What QPP benefits are payable upon the death of an in-service Tier I member?

When an in-service Tier I member dies before becoming eligible for retirement under the Qualified Pension Plan (QPP), the death benefit would equal the member's Annuity Savings Fund (ASF) balance, Increased-Take-Home-Pay (ITHP) balance, and an amount based on his/her salary and years of Total Service Credit.

The following table shows how the member's Total Service Credit affects the death benefit payable.

Years of Service Credit Amount of Death Benefit
Less than 10 One-half the member's salary in the year immediately before the date of the member's death
At least 10 but less than 20 The member's salary in the year immediately before the date of the member's death
20 or more Two times the member's salary in the year immediately before the date of the member's death

Note: The member's salary is the average annual salary in the year immediately before the date of death. It is generally not affected by any approved leaves of absence with or without pay.

If the member was eligible for a service retirement at the time of death, or died within the first 30 days after retiring, the death benefit would be the greater of the amount indicated in the first paragraph above or a benefit based on the reserves that would have been payable under Option I Modified had the member retired on the day before he or she died. (Option I Modified is a retirement payment option that provides a lump-sum benefit to the designated beneficiary based on the member's available pension reserves.)

What QPP benefits are payable upon the death of a Tier I member who was separated from service?

If a Tier I member had at least 10 years of Total Service Credit at the time of death, but was no longer in active service and was not yet eligible for a service retirement under the Qualified Pension Plan (QPP), the death benefit payable would equal the following: one half the amount of the ordinary death benefit that would have been payable had the member died on the last day that service was rendered. If the member's TRS membership had ceased during the separation from service, interest on his/her QPP account balances stopped accruing interest as of the date the membership ceased.

What QPP benefits are payable upon the death of an in-service Tier II, III, IV, or VI member?

If a Tier II, III, IV, or VI member dies while in service and is credited with at least one year of service since last joining TRS, the member's designated beneficiary can apply to receive ordinary death benefits under the Qualified Pension Plan (QPP). The death benefit would equal the balance in the member's Annuity Savings Fund (ASF) (for Tier II members) or Member Contributions Accumulations Fund (MCAF) and Annuity Savings Accumulation Fund (ASAF) (for Tier III, IV, and VI members), plus the amount of either Death Benefit #1 or Death Benefit #2.

As of October 1, 2000, beneficiaries of Tier II, III, and IV members receive the greater of either Death Benefit #1 or Death Benefit #2, even if the member had elected Death Benefit #1 coverage. Members who joined TRS after January 1, 2001 (including Tier VI members) are automatically enrolled in Death Benefit #2.

What QPP benefits are payable upon the death of a Tier II, III, IV, or VI member who was separated from service?

If a Tier II, III, IV, or VI member had at least 10 years of Total Service Credit at the time of death, but was no longer in active service and was not yet eligible for a service retirement under the Qualified Pension Plan (QPP), the amount of Death Benefit #1 or #2 would equal one half of the amount that would have been payable had the member died on the last day that service was rendered. If the member's TRS membership had ceased during the separation from service, interest on his/her QPP account balances stopped accruing interest as of that date.

What is Death Benefit #1?

Under Death Benefit #1, the benefit would equal 1/12 of the member's last 12 months' regularly earned salary multiplied by each full year of Total Service Credit—to a maximum of three times the member's annual salary; this maximum would apply to members who have 36 or more years of Total Service Credit. (This description assumes that the member was in active service and died with at least one year of Total Service Credit since last joining TRS.)

As of October 1, 2000, beneficiaries of Tier II, III, and IV members receive the greater of either Death Benefit #1 or Death Benefit #2, even if the member had elected Death Benefit #1 coverage. Members who joined TRS after January 1, 2001 (including Tier VI members) are automatically enrolled in Death Benefit #2.

What is Death Benefit #2?

Under Death Benefit #2, the benefit would equal one year's salary upon the completion of one year of service, two years' salary upon the completion of two years of service, and three years' salary upon the completion of three or more years of service. If the member remained in service to age 61, the in-service death benefit would be reduced by 5% for each succeeding year until age 70, when the benefit would equal 50% of the applicable amount. (This description assumes that the member was in active service and died with at least one year of Total Service Credit since last joining TRS.)

As of October 1, 2000, beneficiaries of Tier II, III, and IV members receive the greater of either Death Benefit #1 or Death Benefit #2, even if the member had elected Death Benefit #1 coverage. Members who joined TRS after January 1, 2001 (including Tier VI members) are automatically enrolled in Death Benefit #2.

The following table shows the age-reduction factors that affect the benefit payable under Death Benefit #2.

Age at Date of Death Percentage of Benefit Payable After Reduction
60 or under 100%
61 95%
62 90%
63 85%
64 80%
65 75%
66 70%
67 65%
68 60%
69 55%
70 50%

If the member participated in TRS' Tax-Deferred Annuity (TDA) Program, what TDA benefits may be payable?

The member's designated TDA beneficiaries may be eligible to receive the balance of the member's TDA account or (if the member died before July 1, 2021) establish a TDA account with TRS.

For more information, please see the Guide to Death Benefits for Beneficiaries of Retired Members or the Guide to Death Benefits for Beneficiaries of Non-Retired Members and the What is a TDAB account and what beneficiaries are eligible to establish one? FAQ below.

Can a beneficiary roll over a death benefit to another account?

Spouses of deceased members are permitted to roll over the taxable portion of a Qualified Pension Plan (QPP) and/or Tax-Deferred Annuity (TDA) Program death benefit to an eligible Individual Retirement Arrangement (IRA) or other successor program. Non-spouse beneficiaries may roll over the taxable portion of a QPP and/or TDA death benefit to an Inherited IRA or other successor program.

For a list of forms on rolling over a death benefit, please see the Withdrawals/Distributions category in the Forms > Beneficiaries section.

For more information, please see the FAQs in this section.

As a beneficiary, may I invest the death benefit I receive in TRS' investment programs?

Beneficiaries are not permitted to reinvest Qualified Pension Plan (QPP) death benefit funds with TRS. However, depending on the member’s date of death, certain beneficiaries may be able to establish a TDA account with TRS.

For more information, please see the What is a TDAB account and what beneficiaries are eligible to establish one? FAQ below.

What is a TDAB account and what beneficiaries are eligible to establish one?

Establishing a “TDAB” account (a beneficiary account in TRS’ Tax-Deferred Annuity Program) is an option for some beneficiaries. Instead of receiving a payment or rollover of the TDA death benefit, beneficiaries maintain an account in the TDA Program, with the funds invested in TRS’ Passport Funds (but not the Fixed Return Fund).

Eligibility Requirements

  • The member’s date of death must be before July 1, 2021.
  • Beneficiaries must request the establishment of their TDA Program account within six months of the member’s death
  • The value of the TDA benefit must be at least $5,000. 
Account Guidelines
  • Your entire TDA benefit must be used to establish your TDAB account. 
  • The election to establish a TDAB account is irrevocable; however, participants are generally allowed to withdraw their TDA funds.   
  • As part of TDAB enrollment, participants can choose how to invest their TDA funds among TRS’ variable-return Passport Funds (not the Fixed Return Fund). Investment election changes can be made four times per year by filing a TDA Investment Election Change Form for Beneficiaries  (code TD81).

If a member dies in active service, may the beneficiary annuitize the death benefit?

Qualified Pension Plan (QPP) beneficiaries may annuitize a QPP benefit only if the deceased was a Tier I or Tier II member and the QPP benefit is at least $10,000. Eligible beneficiaries of Tier I members must file to annuitize their death benefit by October 31 of the year following the year of the member's death; beneficiaries of Tier II members must file to annuitize their death benefit within 90 days from the date of the member's death.

All Tax-Deferred Annuity (TDA) Program beneficiaries may annuitize a TDA benefit of $10,000 or more. In all cases, before an annuity can be calculated for a beneficiary, (s)he must submit a photocopy of his/her birth certificate to TRS.

There are two ways of annuitizing a death benefit:

Option A, in which the amount would be paid in monthly installments during the beneficiary's lifetime, with all payments ceasing upon his/her death.

Option B, in which the amount of the annuity is slightly reduced, so that any remaining reserves after the beneficiary's death would be payable to a designated beneficiary or estate. Please note that any benefits due the member's estate cannot be annuitized.

Who receives the death benefit if a divorced member of TRS dies?

TRS generally makes death benefit payments in accordance with the member's most recent beneficiary designations. However, if the designated beneficiary is a former spouse through divorce, annulment, or judicial separation, the designation may be considered revoked. In accordance with Chapter 173 of the Laws of 2008, a former spouse is treated as having predeceased the member. Benefits that would have been payable to the former spouse would instead be payable to the member's estate or another beneficiary on file (if applicable).

However, there are some instances where the designation of a former spouse would not be revoked. These include irrevocable designations made by the member (such as those made under a "continuing payment" option for the retirement allowance) and requirements specified in an instrument such as a domestic relations order.

Where can I find information about what benefits are payable under a specific payment option?

Information about the specific payment option is available by accessing the Retirement Payment Options: Tiers I/II and TDA Annuitization Options brochure or the Retirement Payment Options: Tiers III/IV/VI brochure.

What is an accidental death benefit?

An accidental death benefit may be paid to beneficiaries of members of all tiers in lieu of an ordinary death benefit in the following circumstances:

  • The in-service member's death was the natural and proximate result of an accident that was sustained during the performance of duty, but was not caused by the member's willful negligence; and
  • The beneficiary (or other representative) applies for an accidental death benefit within two years of the member's death (except for beneficiaries of Tier IV and VI members, who must generally apply for an accidental death benefit within 60 days of the member's death).

Please be aware that certain legal restrictions apply to the payment of accidental death benefits and should be considered before applying for this benefit.

What is a spousal right of election, and how could it affect the distribution of benefits after the death of a TRS member?

When a TRS member or TRS beneficiary dies, New York State law provides that his/her spouse may elect a share of the deceased spouse's net estate,^ even if the spouse was not designated as a beneficiary. The elective share is the greater of $50,000, or one-third of the net estate. If the net estate is less than $50,000, the elective share is the net estate. Benefits from TRS' Qualified Pension Plan (QPP) and Tax-Deferred Annuity (TDA) Program accounts are included in calculating the net estate.

Please note that the rules described above do not apply to divorced spouses. They also do not apply if the decedent designated the beneficiary of the TRS benefits on or before September 1, 1992 and did not subsequently change the beneficiary designation.

^The net estate, as defined by New York State statute, consists of the net probate assets, as well as testamentary substitutes.

How do I exercise a spousal right of election for TRS benefits?

If you are the spouse of a TRS member or TRS beneficiary, New York State law provides that you may elect a share of your deceased spouse's estate even if you were not named as a beneficiary. If TRS has not yet distributed the benefits payable upon the death of a member or beneficiary, we will refrain from making a death benefit payment or transfer to the designated beneficiaries upon being served with a certified copy of a court order instructing us to do so.

Generally, you must exercise a right of election within six months from the date of issuance of letters testamentary or of letters of administration, and generally must assert this right no later than two years after the date of the decedent's death. For more information, please see the What is a spousal right of election, and how could it affect the distribution of benefits after the death of a TRS member? FAQ above.

TRS strongly urges you to consult with an attorney if you are contemplating exercising a spousal right of election. TRS will be held harmless and free from any liability for making any payment or transfer to a person who would be otherwise entitled to such funds if not for the surviving spouse's exercise of a right of election. In all cases, the specific provisions of the governing laws, rules, and regulations will prevail.

Legal

What is a Power of Attorney (PoA)?

A Power of Attorney (PoA) is a legal instrument that allows one or more individuals (referred to as agents or attorneys-in-fact) to act on behalf of another person (referred to as the principal).

By using a PoA, you can decide in advance who you want to act for you in situations in which you are unable to make decisions for yourself. Agents can be granted the right to handle a broad range of personal, financial, legal, and other business affairs—including retirement benefits.

When choosing an agent, you should select someone you trust who will act in your best interest. Agents may take actions on behalf of a principal with or without their consent.

We strongly urge consultation with an attorney before executing a Power of Attorney.

Can I still handle my own TRS retirement transactions with a PoA on file?

Yes. You may still handle your own retirement affairs; you do not lose your authority to act even though you have given your agent a similar authority.

Does TRS provide a PoA for retirement benefit transactions?

Yes. A TRS Special Durable Power of Attorney (code BK75) is available on our website and it can be used by members, retirees, and beneficiaries. The TRS PoA will also be honored by the other New York State and New York City retirement systems listed on the form.

What types of PoAs does TRS honor?

  • TRS will honor PoAs that authorize retirement benefit transactions and meet the standards of governing law at the time they were executed.  (The law governing the requirements for a New York PoA changed effective June 13, 2021. Any PoA executed on or after June 13, 2021, must comply with the new requirements under New York’s General Obligations Law, Article 5, Title 15).
  • TRS accepts Public Retirement System Special Durable Power of Attorney forms from:
    • The New York City Employees' Retirement System
    • The New York City Board of Education Retirement System
    • The New York City Police Pension Fund
    • The New York City Fire Pension Fund
    • The New York State and Local Employees' Retirement System
    • The New York State Teachers' Retirement System
    • The New York State and Local Police and Fire Retirement System

What can I authorize my agent to do on my behalf with a PoA?

You may grant your agent Standard Authority and/or Gifting Authority. Depending on the level of authority granted, your agent will be able to conduct the following transactions:

  • Standard Authority—allows your agent to access account-specific benefit information and conduct other transactions on your behalf such as: withdrawing funds, changing direct deposit accounts, taking loans and updating address/phone numbers.
  • Gifting Authority—allows your agent to elect a pension payment option that provides for a beneficiary, designate or change death benefit beneficiaries, and name himself or herself as your beneficiary if “self-gifting” is granted.

How do I allow for gifting on a PoA using the TRS Special Durable Power of Attorney form?

If you use the TRS form, and your agent is your spouse, domestic partner, parent or child, then your agent will automatically have “gifting authority,” including the authority to designate himself/herself as your beneficiary.

If your agent is not your spouse, domestic partner, parent or child, they will only have limited “gifting authority.” For this agent to have the authority to designate himself/herself as your beneficiary, you must grant such authority by initialing one of the statements in the “Modifications” section of the TRS form (page 4, section g).

How do I allow for gifting on a PoA without using the TRS form?

  1. All PoAs executed on or after June 13, 2021, must be signed by 2 disinterested witnesses (witnesses who are not listed as agents, successor agents or named in the PoA as persons who can receive gifts).
  2. If you use a NYS Statutory PoA form, gifting authority for all agents including your close family members must be granted in the Modifications Section of the PoA.  To do this, you must initial Section (g) “Certain Gift Transactions” and provide the specific gifting authority granted to your agent(s) in Section (h) “Modifications.”

Should I send a copy of my PoA to TRS?

Although you are not required to, we urge you to submit your PoA to TRS so it can be reviewed and noted in your record. Having your PoA on file at TRS will prevent any delay should your agent need to access your account information or conduct transactions in an emergency. Additionally, once the PoA has been reviewed, we will advise you (and your agent, when appropriate) what level of authority your agent has regarding your TRS account.(In order for your agent to receive information regarding their level of authority, you must provide TRS with their address).

How can I execute a Power of Attorney (PoA) granting an agent the authority to make decisions on my behalf regarding my TRS benefits?

If you are a TRS member wishing to execute a PoA granting another person(s) the authority to make decisions regarding your current and future TRS retirement benefits, you may either:

Complete and submit a TRS Special Durable Power of Attorney (code BK75), which is available on our website or from our Member Services Center at 1 (888) 8-NYC-TRS. This non-statutory form is for use by TRS members and is specifically limited to TRS retirement benefit transactions and does not authorize an agent to act in a transaction that is not related to TRS. Please note that TRS makes this form available merely as a convenience and assumes no responsibility with regard to your use of it.

OR

Complete and submit a statutory short form PoA executed in accordance with the New York General Obligations Law or other state’s applicable law.

How can I revoke my Power of Attorney (PoA)?

You may revoke your PoA at any time, as long as you are of sound mind, by sending TRS a signed revocation statement.

If TRS is not notified when a PoA is revoked, TRS will assume that the PoA on file is still valid and continue to honor it. Therefore, please submit any revocation notices as soon as possible to TRS!

If I have Power of Attorney (PoA) for a retiree, how may I obtain a copy of the retiree's 1099 form?

If TRS has a copy of your PoA on file, you may submit a written request to TRS for a copy of the retiree's 1099 form. You may also submit a written, notarized authorization from the retiree if you wish to have this information released to you.

What is a spousal right of election, and how could it affect the distribution of benefits after the death of a TRS member?

When a TRS member or TRS beneficiary dies, New York State law provides that his/her spouse may elect a share of the deceased spouse's net estate,^ even if the spouse was not designated as a beneficiary. The elective share is the greater of $50,000, or one-third of the net estate. If the net estate is less than $50,000, the elective share is the net estate. Benefits from TRS' Qualified Pension Plan (QPP) and Tax-Deferred Annuity (TDA) Program accounts are included in calculating the net estate.

Please note that the rules described above do not apply to divorced spouses. They also do not apply if the decedent designated the beneficiary of the TRS benefits on or before September 1, 1992 and did not subsequently change the beneficiary designation.

^The net estate, as defined by New York State statute, consists of the net probate assets, as well as testamentary substitutes.

How do I exercise a spousal right of election for TRS benefits?

If you are the spouse of a TRS member or TRS beneficiary, New York State law provides that you may elect a share of your deceased spouse's estate even if you were not named as a beneficiary. If TRS has not yet distributed the benefits payable upon the death of a member or beneficiary, we will refrain from making a death benefit payment or transfer to the designated beneficiaries upon being served with a certified copy of a court order instructing us to do so.

Generally, you must exercise a right of election within six months from the date of issuance of letters testamentary or of letters of administration, and generally must assert this right no later than two years after the date of the decedent's death. For more information, please see the What is a spousal right of election, and how could it affect the distribution of benefits after the death of a TRS member? FAQ above.

TRS strongly urges you to consult with an attorney if you are contemplating exercising a spousal right of election. TRS will be held harmless and free from any liability for making any payment or transfer to a person who would be otherwise entitled to such funds if not for the surviving spouse's exercise of a right of election. In all cases, the specific provisions of the governing laws, rules, and regulations will prevail.

Payments

How can beneficiaries initiate Electronic Fund Transfer (EFT)?

Beneficiaries who are receiving monthly continuing payments of a member's retirement allowance should complete an EFT Authorization Form (code BK58) to enroll in EFT. The completed form, along with the required documentation, must be returned to TRS.

For more information, please see the Electronic Fund Transfer brochure.

What are the tax consequences of receiving death benefits?

Lump-sum Qualified Pension Plan (QPP) death benefit payments are federally taxed in the year that they are received (except for any portion attributable to after-tax member contributions). They are not subject to New York State or New York City taxes; however, beneficiaries residing in a state other than New York should check with their state tax agency about the tax consequences of these payments.

QPP benefits distributed to beneficiaries as an annuity are subject to federal income taxes. They are not subject to New York State and New York City taxes; however, beneficiaries residing in a state other than New York should check with their state tax agency about the tax consequences of these payments.

Tax-Deferred Annuity (TDA) Program benefits paid in a lump sum and payments distributed as an annuity generally are federally taxable and may be subject to state and local taxes.

Is interest included in death benefit payments?

Death benefit payments may include interest, when applicable, for a limited period of time after TRS is notified of the member's death. Claimants/beneficiaries are encouraged to promptly submit documentation of the member's death (and return payments issued by TRS after the member's death). This will enable TRS to begin determining benefit amounts and any interest payable.

Are taxes withheld from a death benefit?

The IRS requires that TRS withhold 20% of the taxable portion of any lump-sum death benefit paid to a surviving spouse, unless the spouse instructs TRS to directly roll over the amount into an IRA or a Section 401 Plan. In addition, the IRS requires that TRS withhold 10% of any death benefit paid to a non-spouse beneficiary, unless that beneficiary elects to have a percentage greater than 10% withheld. Any withheld amount will be sent to the IRS as credit toward the beneficiary's federal taxes for the year of distribution.

For more information about taxes and death benefit payments, please consult the applicable forms, which are available under the Withdrawals/Distributions category in the Forms > Beneficiaries section.