Survivor Benefits
Active Member Death

Post

Death and continuing benefits depend on several factors. If a member dies prior to retirement, death benefits are determined based on:

  • Member status (active or deferred)
  • Category of death (service-connected or non-service connected)
  • Retirement Service Credit
  • Relationship of recipient to member (eligible survivor or named beneficiary)

To qualify as an eligible survivor in cases involving the death of an active member, a spouse or domestic partner must have been married to or in a duly registered California domestic partnership with the member prior to the member’s death. No minimum length of marriage or domestic partnership requirement applies.

Type of Death Basic Death Benefit Optional Death Allowance
Service-Connected

Lump-sum payment of member’s accumulated contributions

Salary Death Benefit: one month of member’s compensation earnable for each full year of Service Credit (not to exceed six months of compensation)

Full amount (100%) of disability retirement allowance deceased member would have received had he or she been retired on an Service-connected Disability at the time of death

Non-Service Connected

Lump-sum payment of member’s accumulated contributions

Salary Death Benefit: one month of member’s compensation earnable for each full year of Service Credit (not to exceed six months of compensation)

60% of disability retirement allowance deceased member would have received had he or she been retired on an Non-service Connected Disability* at the time of death

Deferred Member

Lump-sum payment of member’s accumulated contributions

 
*In order for the survivor to be eligible for the Optional Death Allowance following a non-service connected death, the member must have been eligible for a retirement in the event of a non-service connected disability.

Explanation of Benefits

The following explains the benefits (listed in the Pre-Retirement Death Benefit chart) associated with the death of member prior to retirement. Depending on the circumstances of the case, the benefit(s) may be payable as a lump-sum cash payment or a continuing benefit.

A Basic Death Benefit is a lump-sum payment consisting of the deceased member’s accumulated contributions and the Salary Death Benefit. The Salary Death Benefit is an amount equal to one month of the member’s compensation earnable (averaged over the past 12 months) for each full year of Service Credit, not to exceed six months. For example, if the member had three years of service credit, the Salary Death Benefit would equal three months of compensation earnable. If the member had nine years of service credit, the Salary Death Benefit would equal six months of compensation earnable.

An Optional Death Allowance pays an amount equal to a specified percentage (based on whether the death is service-connected or non-service connected) of the retirement benefit the deceased member would have received had he or she been retired at the time of death. This benefit is available to a surviving spouse or domestic partner or minor child only.

Pre-Retirement continuing benefits terminate upon the death of the eligible surviving spouse or domestic partner. In the case of an eligible surviving child(ren), the monthly benefit continues until the child is no longer eligible.

Rights of Eligible Survivors

The rights and claims of a surviving spouse, domestic partner, or eligible surviving children to receive a continuing benefit may supersede the rights and claims of any other named beneficiary. A continuing benefit can be paid only to a surviving spouse or domestic partner or minor child(ren); a named beneficiary is someone other than an eligible survivor who qualifies for the Basic Death Benefit only.

Service-Connected Death

  • Basic Death Benefit is payable to a named beneficiary or member’s estate.
  • Optional Death Allowance in Lieu of Basic Death Benefit includes full amount (100%) of the disability retirement allowance the deceased member would have received had he or she been retired on an service connected disability at the time of death and is payable to eligible survivor.

Non-Service Connected Death or Death While in Active Service with at Least Five Years of Retirement Service Credit

  • Basic Death Benefit is payable to a named beneficiary or member’s estate.
  • Optional Death Allowance in Lieu of Basic Death Benefit includes 60%** of the disability retirement allowance the deceased member would have received had he or she been retired on an Non-Service Connected Disability at the time of death and is payable to eligible survivor.

Death While Active with less than Five Years of Retirement Service Credit

  • Basic Death Benefit is payable to a named beneficiary or member’s estate.

Deferred Members

  • Member’s accumulated contributions are payable to a named beneficiary or member’s estate.

**Non-Service Connected Death

If a member who is eligible for a non-service connected disability dies while in active service without making any retirement option election, the eligible survivor will have the option to elect an allowance of at most 60% of the member’s disability allowance, and only a spouse or minor child(ren) will be eligible to receive it. If that same member were to actually be granted a non-service connected disability and elect Optional Settlement 2 or 4 prior to death, the survivor(s) could be eligible for an allowance greater than 60% (as much as 100%) of the member’s disability allowance, and the member can name any beneficiary with an insurable interest in the member’s life. In order to facilitate this election, the Death During Active Membership (Form 104) can be used. This form authorizes CCCERA to file a non-service connected disability on your behalf and allows you to pre-select Optional Settlement 2 or 4 in the event of your death during active service. Keep in mind that there is no guarantee that a non-service connected disability will ultimately be granted.

This option results in the largest continuance to your survivor (up to a 100% continuance of the non-service connected disability retirement benefit). In order to receive this allowance, members must fill out the Death During Active Membership (Form 104). The form must be on file with CCCERA on or before the date of death to be valid. 

The Death During Active Membership (Form 104) is only in effect while you are an active member. When you retire, new retirement option forms are completed. At that time, you may change your retirement option to provide the best benefit possible to you during your retirement years. 

Even if you have not yet reached the years of service eligibility requirement for this benefit, you can have the form on file, to be available at the appropriate time. The form is available at cccera.org, or can be mailed to you from CCCERA. Complete the form, making sure you have an adult witness sign to verify your wishes. Then return the form to CCCERA.

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