Retirement Benefits

Learn About Your Pre- and Post-Retirement Death Benefits

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Did you know that your CalPERS membership category, retirement eligibility status, and other factors affect your death benefits?

And the benefits themselves can vary depending on the circumstances and other information we receive. Until we receive the required documents, it’s not possible to know exactly what benefits and dollar amounts apply to your specific case.

For Active Members

If you should pass away before you retire, CalPERS provides several benefits for your family or a beneficiary. The benefits range from a simple return of your contributions plus interest to a monthly allowance equal to half of what you would have received at retirement paid to a spouse or domestic partner.

To be eligible for any type of monthly pre-retirement death benefit, your spouse or domestic partner must have been either married to you or legally registered before the occurrence of the injury or the onset of the illness that resulted in your death, or for at least one year prior to your death.

Factors affecting your pre-retirement death benefits include:

  • Beneficiary eligibility
  • Employer’s contract with CalPERS
  • Job classification
  • Your age
  • Whether you were eligible to retire at the time of death
  • Years of service
  • Date of separation from employment (if you left to join another retirement system)

If you are a state, school, or public agency employee, possible benefits could be one-time or monthly payments unless indicated otherwise.

Refer to your member benefit publication for more detailed information on your active member death benefits.

Health benefits are automatically canceled when you die. Your beneficiary can re-enroll for health benefits when certain conditions are met.

If health benefits are canceled and your beneficiary is not eligible, coverage under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) may apply.

For Inactive Members

Under certain circumstances the Limited Death Benefit can be paid if you are considered an inactive member.

If you left CalPERS to join another California public retirement system, there may be additional benefits paid from CalPERS.

If you separated from CalPERS employment and terminated your membership by withdrawing or refunding all your contributions, no death benefits are payable.

For Retired Members

You are eligible for various death benefits, which range from a simple return of contributions (plus interest) to a monthly allowance. Death benefits can vary significantly, depending on circumstances, data, and your employer contract. They could be one-time or monthly payments unless indicated otherwise.

Factors affecting your post-retirement death benefits include:

  • An eligible beneficiary
  • Former employer’s contract with CalPERS
  • Marital status
  • Option you chose at retirement

If your surviving beneficiary is eligible for continued health coverage, they will be re-enrolled when your death benefit is paid. Enrollment will be retroactive to the first of the month following the date of death. This also applies for dental benefits if you were entitled to receive them.

Beneficiary Designation

Death benefits are paid according to the valid beneficiary designation on file. Benefits may be paid per statutory beneficiary order if there is no designation on file or the designation was revoked. CalPERS will determine who the death benefits are payable to after we receive and review all the required documents.

You can review or change your designated beneficiaries in your myCalPERS account.

Learn More

For more detailed information on benefits payable, active members can view their specific member benefit publication, and retired members should refer to our publication Retired Member Death Benefits (PUB 31)(PDF). You can find all our member publications in Forms & Publications on our website.