The type of benefits which may be payable, monthly or lump-sum, will be determined by the member's first beneficiary.
Your beneficiary is determined in one of two ways. The first and most common is by automatic succession as established by retirement law. The second is specific designation which requires the member to name a person, persons, trust, estate, or an institution.
Your account value may be refunded in a lump sum if the designation specifies a trust, estate, or an institution, or, if your named beneficiary is not eligible for monthly benefits. However, if you are survived by an eligible child or children, only monthly benefits can be paid. An eligible child is any unmarried, natural or legally adopted child under age 18 (or 22 if a qualified student attending an accredited school) or, regardless of age, if adjudged physically or mentally incompetent.
Automatic Succession by Law
Under automatic succession the beneficiary is determined in the following order at death:
- Dependent parents
- If none of the above, then parents share equally in a refund of the account
- If none of the foregoing, then a refund of the account will be paid to the estate
If you wish to make a specific designation or change a previous designation, you must request a form for this purpose from OPERS, or obtain one from your employer.
There are certain circumstances when a specific designation is cancelled by law. Marriage, divorce, dissolution of marriage, legal separation, or the birth or adoption of a child make a prior specific designation invalid. If, after one of these events occurs, you do not send a new designation to OPERS, the beneficiary will be determined by automatic succession.
If you take a refund of your OPERS account value, your beneficiary designation is automatically cancelled. Later, if you again become a member of the Retirement System, automatic succession will apply unless you file a specific designation.
If you are also a member of STRS or SERS, the last beneficiary designation filed with any of these systems will apply in all systems.