Retirement Benefits

How to Report the Death of a CalPERS Member

CalPERS Survivor & Death Benefits Team Members Natalie Basurto, Nichole Williams, and Marcella Fajardo.

Each year, we receive tens of thousands of death reports that aren’t simply numbers to us, but represent lost loved ones and dedicated public servants.

“Helping grieving members during such a difficult time requires something beyond empathy — it requires a true human connection,” said Natalie Basurto (left) of CalPERS’ Survivor & Death Benefits team. “My heart breaks a little every day in this role, but it fuels me to provide the best service possible.”

She and other members of the team offered four factors to keep in mind for anyone reporting the death of a member, survivor, or beneficiary:

Report Promptly

A death should be reported promptly to us. This ensures benefits are stopped in a timely manner and helps prevent potential overpayments from occurring. A death can be reported the following ways:

  • Online via our website
  • Telephone at 888 CalPERS (or 888-225-7377)
  • Mail to:
    CalPERS Disability & Survivor Benefits Division
    Survivor & Death Benefits
    P.O. Box 1652
    Sacramento, CA 95812-1652

Before notifying us of a death, we recommend you have the following information ready:

  • For the person who died:
    • Full name
    • Date of birth
    • CalPERS ID or Social Security number (SSN)
    • Date of death
  • For you:
    • Contact information
  • For spouses and domestic partners:
    • Social Security number (SSN) or Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN) to help accelerate your payment
    • Marriage date

Have Documentation Ready

Since we require documentation to establish relationships to the deceased member, having certain documents readily available can simplify the process. We will always need a copy of the deceased individual’s death certificate, showing the cause and manner of death. Other required documentation may include:

  • Marriage certificate
  • Registered domestic partnership certificate
  • Divorce decree
  • Termination of domestic partnership
  • Birth certificates or adoption paperwork

Keep Beneficiaries Current

It’s critical for members — prior to their passing — to ensure their beneficiary designation is current, especially if any of these life events occur:

Death benefits are paid according to the valid beneficiary designation on file. If there is no designation on file or the designation was revoked, benefits are paid per statutory beneficiary order.

Payable Benefits Depend on Several Factors

Many factors influence death benefits, so it’s not possible to determine exactly what’s payable until we receive and review all required documents after a death is reported.

For active members, benefits payable depends on factors such as:

  • Date of separation from employment
  • Eligible beneficiary
  • Employer’s contract with CalPERS
  • Job classification
  • Member’s age
  • Whether they were eligible to retire at the time of death
  • Years of service

For retired members, benefits payable depends on:

  • Eligible beneficiary
  • Former employer’s contract with CalPERS
  • Marital status
  • The option a member chose at retirement

‘Our Kindness Matters’

Listening with compassion helps Marcella Fajardo (right) of the Survivor & Death Benefits team feel as though she’s made a difference.

“It’s gratifying to help ease their worries and help them to get their benefits paid out quickly,” she said. “Having gone through it myself, I always talk to people with care as I know how difficult it can be and how much our kindness matters.”

Nichole Williams (center) has worked in the Pre-Retirement Survivor Benefits unit for the past 17 years where — for our active members — these deaths usually occur unexpectedly, adding even more heartache and stress upon their survivors.

“That is when we step in and try to alleviate some pressure by paying the most accurate benefits in a timely manner,” she said. “Knowing that I am helping our members’ loved ones at this delicate time brings me joy to my heart because the care and attention we give to each family is what I would want for my family and friends as well.”

If you need help reporting a death or updating a beneficiary, our team members are ready to assist — log in to myCalPERS to send us a secure message, or call 888 CalPERS (or 888-225-7377).