Know Your Benefits: Death Benefits

NYSLRS membership provides more than just retirement benefits. For most members, if you die while in active service, your beneficiary may be eligible to receive a death benefit. Here is an overview of member death benefits. If you are retired, visit our Death Benefit page for retirees to learn about your available benefits.

death benefits

Types of Death Benefits

Most members who die while they’re still working will leave their beneficiaries what’s called an “ordinary death benefit.” This is a lump sum payment that’s usually equal to one year of your earnings per year of service, up to a maximum of three years. 

Generally, to leave your beneficiaries this death benefit, you must have at least one year of service credit and your death must occur while you are on the public payroll.

Some members who die because of an on-the-job accident (not due to their own willful negligence) may leave their beneficiary an accidental death benefit. The accidental death benefit is a pension payable to your spouse. Other beneficiaries, as specified by law, may be eligible if there is no spouse.

  • For Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) Tier 4, 5 and 6 members, the benefit would be 50 percent of your earnings from your last year of service.
  • For most other members, the benefit would be 50 percent of your final average earnings (less any workers’ compensation benefit).

There is no minimum service credit requirement to leave an accidental death benefit.

The specific death benefits that may be available to your beneficiaries depend on your tier and retirement plan. Find Your NYSLRS Retirement Plan Publication and check it for specific benefit amount and eligibility information.

Note: For public employees who contract COVID-19 on the job and die from COVID-19, their beneficiaries may be eligible for an enhanced death benefit. Find out more about the Enhanced Death Benefit for Survivors of COVID-19 Victims.

Review and Update Your Beneficiaries

You should periodically review your beneficiary designations. Life circumstances sometimes change, and the beneficiary you may have named before might not be the one you would choose today. You should also make sure your beneficiary’s contact information is up to date so we can find them when needed.

Retirement Online is the best way to manage your beneficiary information. Sign in to Retirement Online today and click “View and Update My Beneficiaries” to review your named beneficiaries, and update them if needed.

Reporting a Death

NYSLRS cannot pay out death benefits until after we are notified of a member’s death and have a certified copy of the death certificate. The fastest way for survivors to report a member’s death to NYSLRS is using our online form on our website. Survivors can also upload a copy of the certified death certificate, which enables us to start reaching out to the beneficiary. It’s important to talk with your family about your benefits and how to report your death to NYSLRS.

Payment of Death Benefits

NYSLRS will reach out to your beneficiaries on file and send them the application and instructions for receiving benefits. NYSLRS can pay death benefits once it receives the required documentation.

43 thoughts on “Know Your Benefits: Death Benefits

  1. Bryan

    Hello, my father was a tier 2 member who passed after being retired for 15 years. I am assisting my mother with expectations of benefits being paid out and I am confused as to what lump-sum benefits she will receive as beneficiary. He selected Pop-Up Half upon retirement, but the break down of other benefits escapes me. Does she receive the full death benefit and $3K and his pension? If there is anyone who could make this clear for me it would be appreciated. We have already supplied the state with his DC.

    Reply
    1. NYSLRS Post author

      We would like to extend our condolences on the passing of your father.

      Most NYSLRS retirees are eligible for a post-retirement death benefit if they retired directly from payroll or within one year of leaving covered employment. If your father was eligible for a post-retirement death benefit, his beneficiary will receive a one-time, lump sum payment.

      The Survivor’s Benefit Program provides a minimum death benefit to the beneficiaries of eligible retired New York State employees. You can find more information on our Death Benefits for Retirees webpage.

      Once we receive the original death certificate, we send named beneficiaries information about any continuing pension benefits and death benefits that may be payable based on the member or retiree’s tier and retirement plan. We will also send named beneficiaries the appropriate forms to complete.

      Reply
  2. Dan

    A family member recently passed away and the cause of death was ruled a suicide. He was in active service and had 7 years of service credit with the NYSLRS. 36 yrs old, tier 6 ERS member.

    According to the OSC/NYSLRS website, it states that if you have at least one year of service credit and die while in active service, and your death is not the result of an on-the-job accident, your beneficiary may be entitled to an ordinary death benefit. It also states that the ordinary death benefit would be your last year’s earnings multiplied by your years of service credit, not to exceed three years’ earnings with up to $50,000 of this benefit being paid in the form of group term life insurance.

    I know that many life insurance policies have a suicide clause or provision stating that they will not pay a death benefit if the member commits suicide within one or two years of entering the plan.

    Since the cause of death was ruled a suicide, but he was in active service with 7 years of service credit, is his beneficiary entitled to an ordinary death benefit, including the $50,000 paid in the form of group life insurance?

    Thank you

    Reply
  3. Dan

    A relative of mine recently passed away and the cause of death was deemed a suicide. He was in active service and had 7 years of service credit with the NYSLRS. 36 yrs old, tier 6 ERS member.

    According to the OSC/NYSLRS website, it states that if you have at least one year of service credit and die while in active service, and your death is not the result of an on-the-job accident, your beneficiary may be entitled to an ordinary death benefit. It also states that the Ordinary Death Benefit would be your last year’s earnings multiplied by your years of service credit, not to exceed three years’ earnings with up to $50,000 of this benefit is paid in the form of group term life insurance.

    I know that many life insurance policies have a suicide clause or provision stating that they will not pay a death benefit if the member commits suicide within one or two years of entering the plan.

    Since the member was in active service and had 7 years of service credit, is his beneficiary entitled to an ordinary death benefit, including the $50,000 paid in the form of group life insurance?

    Thank you

    Reply
    1. NYSLRS Post author

      We would like to extend our condolences on the passing of your relative.

      If someone has not done so already, you can report your relative’s death by calling 866-805-0990 and pressing 3 or by completing our Report a Death form. Before any death benefits can be processed or paid, NYSLRS will need an original, certified death certificate. Death certificates can be mailed to NYSLRS, 110 State Street, Albany, NY 12244-0001.

      Once we receive the death certificate, we will send designated beneficiaries or their certified representatives (guardians, powers of attorney, executors) information about any death benefits that may be payable. We will also send designated beneficiaries the appropriate forms to complete.

      Reply
      1. Dan

        Thank you for the response. I understand that the death needs to be reported and you need a copy of the death certificate. However, my main question is: Will the NYSLRS pay death benefits when the cause of death is a suicide or is it excluded?

        Reply
      2. Dan

        Thank you for your response, but I am still unclear on this. Will the NYSLRS pay death benefits if the cause of death is a suicide or is that an excluded cause?

        Reply
  4. Shanice

    We had a death in the family and have been trying to get our benefits for over a year now. We are supposedly just missing one form (RS5532) but we have not received it. We’ve been at this for over a year and are grief stricken and tired. How can we stop getting the run around and get our final payout?

    Reply
    1. NYSLRS Post author

      We’re sorry for your loss. We’d like to help resolve your issue, and we have sent you a private message.

      Reply
      1. Dee

        I have now been waiting since my mother passed away on 6/4/23 and was told 6 months. I have waited patiently and I am now requesting the payment. When will this check arrive and why is it taking so long. If you fail to respond I will contact other outlets. I need this money now 6 months is excessive

        Reply
        1. NYSLRS Post author

          We would like to extend our condolences to you on your mother’s passing.

          For information about the status of your mom’s death benefit, please call our customer service representatives at 866-805-0990, then press 3.

          Reply
    2. Cassandre Gaubert

      my mother passed away July 28 2003. I am her only child. In August, I mailed my mother death certificate to the New NYSLRS The return receipt, stamped “NYC OSC mailroom Aug 28, 2023,” and a letter from NYSLRS dated Oct 27, 2023, confirm the receipt and entry of my documents into their records.
      Despite multiple follow up calls and emails I’ve yet to receive the necessary forms from NYSLRS. The last rep assured me of expediting the process due to the delay, but to date, no forms have been received.
      imagine grieving the loss of your mother who worked for the state for 30 years!! just for them to give you the run around.

      Reply
      1. NYSLRS Post author

        We would like to extend our condolences on the loss of your mother. Your message is important to us, and we have sent you a private message in response.

        Reply
    1. NYSLRS Post author

      We would like to extend our condolences to you on your mother’s passing .

      To find out the status of your mom’s death benefit, please call our customer service representatives at 866-805-0990, then press 3.

      Reply
  5. Phil Norman

    My mother passed in April 2023, I’ve filed her death certificate and got an acknowledgment of that in the mail .after emailing and 2 phone call I have yet to hear or receive any thing. I know I am her beneficiary and I also know she took the pop up pension.when will I receive her pension? Will I receive what is now 7 months retroactive? With interest? You manage to take her last pension payment back out of her checking, so I know your aware of her death.

    Reply
    1. NYSLRS Post author

      We’re sorry for your loss.

      Your message is important to us, and we have sent you a private message in response.

      Reply
  6. Rachel Jean-Baptiste

    I have called many time about my mother’s death benefit, and you never answer and always disconnect me. Please respond

    Reply
    1. Claire

      Same here! Be on hold for hours then at 4pm sharp they disconnect you every time. Months with only reply being about managed medicare ridiculous NYS is a joke

      Reply
  7. Sal

    What happens if an nys police officer files for retirement and then passes prior to actual retirement date?

    Reply
    1. NYSLRS Post author

      For most NYSLRS members, their beneficiaries are eligible for a death benefit if they die before retirement. You can find information about death benefits for State Police in the State Police retirement plan publication.

      If you have account-specific questions, please message our customer service representatives using our secure contact form. Filling out the secure form allows them to safely contact you about your personal account information.

      Reply
    1. NYSLRS Post author

      We are sorry for your loss.

      Once we receive an original death certificate, we will mail information about any continuing pension benefits and death benefits that may be payable to named beneficiaries (or their certified representative, such as guardians, powers of attorney and executors). We will also send named beneficiaries the appropriate forms to complete.

      Reply
    2. Jessie Brown

      Can a spouse attest the beneficiary after a sudden death? My husband passed away u expectedly 3 months after we got married, him nor I updated each other on our benefits as we thought we had more time. If his beneficiary was still is mother, as his spouse am I entitled to anything? My concern is paying back the funeral home for his services. I am currently past due.

      Reply
      1. NYSLRS Post author

        We’re sorry for your loss. Information about death benefits and beneficiaries can depend on whether a NYSLRS member is retired or not and whether the death was the result of an on-the-job accident. For information about death benefit beneficiaries, please call 866-805-0990, press 3, then follow the prompts.

        Reply
        1. Jessie Brown

          No he was not yet retired he had 17 years with the state ddso of Taconic. The death was not on the job either.

          Reply
          1. NYSLRS Post author

            To speak with a customer service representative, please call 866-805-0990, press 3, then follow the prompts.

        2. Jessie Brown

          This does not answer my general question. My question is that if a spouse in the State of NY has the legal right to attest beneficiaries on a spouses life insurance specifically if they are newlyweds and if they both did not change any beneficiaries yet.

          Reply
    1. NYSLRS

      Most NYSLRS retirees are eligible for a post-retirement death benefit if they retired directly from payroll or within one year of leaving covered employment. The post-retirement benefit is a percentage of the benefit available during your working years.

      For account-specific information about how this may apply in your particular situation, please email our customer service representatives using our secure email form. Filling out the secure form allows them to safely contact you about your personal account information.

      Reply

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