Update Your Beneficiaries

It’s easy and important

How long has it been since you thought about your NYSLRS beneficiaries? A year, two years, five? Did you get married since then? Get divorced? Have a child?

When you die, your NYSLRS death benefit will be paid to the last beneficiaries you designated. That’s the law. That’s why it’s so important that you check your NYSLRS beneficiary designations periodically.

Luckily, it’s easier to do than ever.

The new Retirement Online is a convenient way to review account details and conduct business with NYSLRS in real time. Now, instead of sending a form through the mail, you can simply sign in to Retirement Online to view your designations and submit changes instantly.

Register and sign in to Retirement Online today to update your beneficiaries and access a variety of other time-saving features.

Types of Beneficiaries

You can designate primary and contingent beneficiaries:

  • A primary beneficiary receives your death benefit. If you name more than one primary beneficiary, they will split the benefit equally.
  • A contingent beneficiary receives a benefit only if all your primary beneficiaries are deceased when you die.

Special Benefit Designations for Beneficiaries

Special Beneficiary Designations

Your beneficiary doesn’t have to be a person:

  • When you die, your estate is all the money and property you owned. If you make your estate a beneficiary, the executor of your estate will distribute your benefit according to your will. If you outlive both your primary and contingent beneficiaries, your benefit will go to your estate by default.
  • A trust is a legal arrangement giving a person you choose legal control over property — such as a death benefit. The trust itself would be your NYSLRS beneficiary, not the individuals for whom you established the trust. (You may want to speak with your attorney if you’re thinking about making your trust a beneficiary.)
  • You can name a charitable, civic, religious, educational or other kind of organization as a beneficiary too.

For more information about beneficiaries, check out our booklet, Why Should I Designate a Beneficiary? (VO1706).

5 thoughts on “Update Your Beneficiaries

  1. Florence Robie

    My friend’s first wife was named as his primary beneficiary. She left NYState and has not been heard from since. A number of years have passed and he has remarried. He would like to name his present wife as primary beneficiary, as it makes sense to do so. Can he do this?

    1. NYSLRS Post author

      NYSLRS members can name beneficiaries for several different types of death benefits depending on their plan and tier, and whether they are retired or not. For some, the beneficiary can be changed, and for some, it cannot.

      Your friend may be further restricted in changing beneficiaries if he has a domestic relations order (DRO) covering his pension benefits.

      He can find these and other details by reading his retirement plan book on our Publications page.

      For account-specific information, we recommend your friend email our customer service representatives using our secure email form, or call them at 866-805-0990. One of our representatives will review his account to address his questions. Filling out the secure form allows us to safely discuss personal account information. Your friend should expect a response in five to seven business days.

    1. NYSLRS Post author

      Yes, you may designate any person, a trust or organization to receive your death benefit. If you name more than one primary beneficiary, each will share the benefit equally, unless you indicate specific percentages are to be paid (e.g., John Doe, 50 percent; Jane Doe, 25 percent; and Mary Doe, 25 percent).

      With a trust, you can name your trust as a primary beneficiary or as a contingent beneficiary of your death benefit if you have executed a trust agreement or provided for a trust in your will. With this type of beneficiary designation, the trust is the beneficiary, not the individuals for whom the trust was established. If you revoke the trust or it expires, its designation as beneficiary is no longer valid.

      For more information, please check out our Life Changes: Why Should I Designate a Beneficiary? publication.


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