Every time you get paid, a percentage of your check goes to your account at PERA. Your account grows over time until you are ready to retire. Have you thought about what happens to that money if you die before reaching retirement? Is there someone you want to ensure receives your benefits? Choosing a beneficiary or beneficiaries ensures your retirement benefits can still help a loved one or your favorite organization if you are no longer around.
You likely have beneficiaries assigned on other financial accounts, like a checking account or other retirement accounts. Beneficiaries work a bit differently with your PERA account. Read on to learn how beneficiaries work during different milestones of your career.
You can choose a beneficiary when you enroll in PERA.
When you initially enroll in PERA, you have an opportunity to choose your beneficiary. This is the person or people (or charity or organization) who will receive your account balance if you die before retirement. Many people choose family members, but you can choose any person or organization that you’d like. If you choose multiple beneficiaries, your account balance would be split equally among them.
When you reach one year of PERA service credit, your benefit will go to your qualified survivors, not your beneficiary.
When you earn your twelfth month of PERA service credit, you become eligible for PERA’s survivor benefits. If you die while employed at a PERA-covered employer, your “qualified survivors” receive monthly income. Your qualified survivors—and the order in which they receive your benefit—are determined by state law. Qualified survivors include: dependent children, a spouse, dependent parents, and disabled adult children. Learn more about this topic in the Survivor Benefits booklet.
If you are an active PERA member and you are eligible for retirement, your qualified survivors are listed below in order of eligibility:
Cobeneficiary (person designated by you, after you are eligible for retirement, to receive an Option 3 monthly benefit)
Spouse (monthly benefit)
Children (monthly benefit)
Disabled adult children (monthly benefit)
Dependent parents (monthly benefit)
Named beneficiary(ies) (lump sum)
Your estate (lump sum)
If you do not have any qualified survivors, PERA will send your account balance to your beneficiary(s).
Other common questions
Can you make updates to your account beneficiaries outside of open enrollment?
Yes, you can update your beneficiaries at any time by logging into your secure account.
How do I see who my current beneficiaries are?
Log in to your account here to review who your current beneficiaries are.
What happens if I leave employment but don’t retire?
If you were to die before you begin collecting a PERA benefit, your surviving spouse may be eligible for a survivor benefit or your account balance would go to your named beneficiary(s), depending on your years of service. For this reason, it’s a good idea to check to see who your named beneficiaries are when you leave your job.
Does a change in my marital status automatically change my beneficiary?
No. You must make any beneficiary updates. They do not happen automatically. For instance, if you get married, your spouse does not automatically become a beneficiary. Similarly, if you have a spouse who is your beneficiary and you subsequently become divorced, that does not automatically remove that person as a beneficiary.
Does my beneficiary only receive my contributions? Is there a match?
Your account balance equals your contributions plus all interest earned since your account has been open. Payments to beneficiaries receive a 100% match if the member was in the PERA benefit structure. If the member was in the DPS benefit structure, there is no match.
Learn more about your survivor benefits included in your PERA Defined Benefit plan by visiting copera.org/survivor-benefits.