The death of a loved one is almost always tragic, and the weight of such a loss is magnified if the individual in question is the breadwinner. Though things may look dire for a grieving family after that loss, survivor benefits can offer valuable assistance.
A younger worker may not know much about the survivor’s benefits program simply because the thought of an early passing has not crossed their mind. It is never too early to learn about this particular program and what it could do for your family’s future. Discover how it works and the benefits it provides by continuing with the rest of this article.
What Is the Survivor’s Benefit Program in New York State?
Every new day comes with uncertainty. Some surprises are pleasant, while others are more tragic in nature. Survivor benefits are supposed to help your family members through an especially challenging period brought about by your untimely passing.
The main purpose of the survivor benefits program is to deliver a death benefit to designated beneficiaries/survivors. In some ways, it works similarly to a life insurance policy. Of course, you do not need to go out of your way to sign up for this program.
Notably, you do not make extra payments to become eligible for survivor benefits. State employees are already paying for this program with their taxes.
Who Are the Employees Eligible for New York State’s Survivor’s Benefit Program?
Both current and retired employees of New York State are eligible for the survivor benefits program. Employees do not need to enroll in the program to become eligible. However, they must still meet certain requirements to receive coverage.
The requirements for current and retired New York State employees are detailed below.
Survivor’s Benefit Program Requirements for Current New York State Employees
First, let’s touch on the eligibility requirements for current New York State employees. The main eligibility requirement for current employees accounts for their work schedules or annual salaries. More specifically, a full-time state employee must log at least 20 hours of work per week to become eligible. Alternatively, you may also become eligible if your annual state-funded salary is equivalent to 1,000 hours times New York’s minimum wage.
Aside from meeting one of the main eligibility requirements mentioned in the previous paragraph, you must clear at least one additional hurdle. The Office of the New York State Comptroller outlines these supplementary requirements.
- An employee must be on the state payroll for at least 90 out of the 120 days leading up to the date of their death.
- An employee must have at least one year of continuous service if they began state service at age sixty-five or older.
- An employee must have at least one year of service and die while on the state payroll after returning from an authorized leave of absence without pay.
- An employee must have at least one year of service, be present on the state payroll within the last six months, and their death occurs while on an authorized leave without pay.
- An employee must have at least five years of service, be present on the state payroll within the last twelve months, and their death occurs while on an authorized leave without pay.
- An employee dies due to an on-the-job accident.
Remember that an employee must meet one of the supplementary requirements to qualify for the New York State’s survivor’s benefits program. Make sure you relay that information to your beneficiaries, so they do not assume they are ineligible to receive payouts.
Survivor’s Benefit Program Requirements for Retired State Employees
Similar to the current New York State workers, retired employees must meet both a main and supplementary eligibility requirement to secure survivor benefits for their family members. The main requirement is connected to service time. Employees must have ten full years of service within the fifteen years immediately preceding their retirement or departure from their department.
After clearing that service time barrier, you must now tick the box for at least one additional requirement. Once again, the Office of the New York State Comptroller details those requirements.
- An employee must leave state service at age sixty-two or older.
- An employee must retire directly from state service and be a member of the New York State and Local Retirement System (NYSLRS) or the New York State Teachers’ Retirement System (NYSTRS).
- Employees must directly retire from state service at age fifty-five or older, participate in the State University Optional Retirement Program (TIAA), and start receiving their pension within 90 days of their last day on the payroll.
Survivor’s Benefit Program Requirements for Recently Retired State Employees
Aside from current and retired employees, a third group of state workers may obtain survivor benefits for their family members. These are the employees who recently left state service but have not reached the effective dates of their retirements yet.
The beneficiaries of an employee in this group can still receive survivor benefits if the worker dies within thirty days of leaving state service and the effective retirement date.
Are you unsure if your recently deceased loved one qualifies for New York State’s survivor’s benefit program? Consult a reputable New York State attorney to learn more about your available options.
Who Are the Recipients of Your Survivor Benefits?
Survivor benefits can help your loved ones make it out of a difficult spot caused by your unexpected death. However, you must ensure your survivor benefits go to the right people.
Do you already know who your beneficiaries will be? This section highlights how you can designate the recipients of your survivor benefits.
Designating Your Beneficiary as a Current State Employee
As a current employee who is a member of the state retirement system or the TIAA, the person you chose to receive your ordinary death benefit will also get your survivor benefits.
Things work differently if you are not a member of the state retirement system or the TIAA. You must request a Non-Member Employee Designation of Beneficiary form (RS6357) and use that to name your beneficiary. Submit the Non-Member Employee Designation of Beneficiary form to your personnel office after filling it out.
Designating Your Beneficiary as a Retired State Employee
Retired New York State employees will name their beneficiaries using the Survivor’s Benefit Eligibility form (RS6355). Complete the form and return it to your personnel office to formalize your beneficiary selection. The recipient of your pension benefit will also get your survivor benefits.
New York State Employees who were not members of the NYSLRS, NYSTRS, or TIAA when they retired will also use the Survivor’s Benefit Eligibility form to name their beneficiary.
Can You Change the Beneficiary for Your Survivor Benefits?
The relationships we have with our loved ones can change over time. Your relationship with your spouse may deteriorate and eventually end in divorce. Parents and their kids may also grow apart for various reasons.
Due to those changes, you may no longer feel comfortable leaving your survivor benefits to certain loved ones. Thankfully, New York State’s survivor’s benefits program works the same as a life insurance policy in the sense that it also allows you to change beneficiaries.
Use the Designation of Beneficiary form (RS5127) to update your beneficiary and send it to the NYSLRS. If you are a retired member of the NYSLRS, you can visit this website and name a new beneficiary.
Survivor benefits for a former spouse are revoked when an annulment, divorce, or judicial separation is finalized. You probably do not need to change the specific details of your survivor’s benefits program in that scenario. Still, you should double-check to ensure no additional provisions could complicate matters.
There is also a chance that you may outlive the beneficiary of your survivor benefits. In that case, you can name a new recipient by using the Pensioner’s Designation of Beneficiaries form (RS6439). You should be allowed to use that form even if you originally selected a policy that does not allow switching beneficiaries. Reaching out to the New York State retirement system may also help if you are having difficulty updating the specific details of your survivor benefit program.
Can a Divorced Spouse Still Receive Survivor Benefits?
We mentioned in the previous section that finalizing your annulment, divorce, or judicial separation can revoke your former spouse’s rights. While that is the case, there is also a chance that your former spouse may still be eligible to receive survivor benefits.
The length of your marriage will determine if your former partner can still receive benefits from New York State’s retirement program. More specifically, your ex-partner will be eligible for benefits if your marriage lasts ten years or longer.
According to the Social Security Administration, your surviving ex-partner can still receive survivor benefits even if they remarry. They remain eligible if they remarry after turning sixty. They retain that eligibility if they remarry after turning fifty if they have a disability.
Your former spouse can also receive survivor benefits if they are caring for your disabled child who is still under sixteen years of age. That rule is followed for both natural and adopted children.
New York State employees should know that the survivor benefits awarded to their former spouse would not affect their other beneficiaries’ payouts. The survivor benefits may only be affected if your former partner also qualifies for state benefits.
How Much Will New York State’s Survivor’s Benefits Program Pay Out?
How much financial support will your beneficiaries receive via New York State’s survivor’s benefits program? The answer to that question will depend on various factors.
First, your payout will be affected by your current status as an employee. Beneficiaries of employees who are not members of either New York State’s retirement system or the TIAA will receive up to half of their deceased loved one’s yearly salary.
Note that a cap of $10,000 is put on the amount a beneficiary can receive. A minimum survivor benefit of $2,000 is also given to recipients of New York State’s retirement program.
A cap of $10,000 is also put on the survivor benefits given to a recipient, even if you are a member of the retirement system or the TIAA. The $10,000 cap already accounts for your survivor and ordinary death benefits. In a situation wherein an eligible beneficiary can receive more than $10,000 courtesy of an ordinary death benefit, they will no longer get survivor benefits from New York State.
Beneficiaries of employees who are members of the retirement system or the TIAA will also receive a minimum payout of $2,000. The $2,000 amount will already include the death and survivor benefits.
Lastly, a beneficiary can receive a $2,000 survivor’s benefit along with an accidental death benefit. Make sure you receive the appropriate amount based on the terms of the New York State’s retirement system or the TIAA by working with an experienced attorney.
Can You Apply for Survivor Benefits if You Are Self-Employed?
Securing survivor benefits for your loved ones courtesy of Social Security remains an option even if you are self-employed. To get survivor benefits for your loved ones that way, you must submit payments when you file annual income tax returns.
Figuring out the right amount to pay so you are also getting survivor benefits for your loved ones can be tricky. You must consider your contribution and your business’ contribution when submitting your payments. Keeping your tax obligations low is still possible even if you are paying for survivor benefits this way.
Enlist the services of an experienced estate planning attorney so you can pay the appropriate amount of taxes. They will also help you file your taxes on time.
The unexpected death of a loved one is a challenge to deal with for any family. Beyond the grief caused by such a tragic event, the surviving family members may also be plagued by financial issues. Protect them from that possible scenario by securing survivor benefits. Contact us at the Alber Law Group today, and we will get your survivor benefits in order.