Retirement Benefits

Life Happens — Know When to Update Your Beneficiary After Retirement

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You’ve likely already designated one or more loved ones — also known as a beneficiary — to receive a lump-sum death benefit, a continuing monthly benefit, or both following your death.

However, certain life events can impact your CalPERS benefits, such as a marriage, a divorce, or the death of your beneficiary.

Depending on the type of life event, you may wish to make the following changes:

  • Add a beneficiary or change your beneficiary designation
  • Remove a beneficiary designation
  • Request a benefit allowance increase

How Do I Change My Beneficiary?

You can change your beneficiary online through myCalPERS. Check out our video, When to Change Your Beneficiary Designation After Retirement, for a quick overview.

What if I Don’t Have a Valid Beneficiary?

Unless you designate a valid beneficiary, benefits are paid to the closest surviving family member upon death, in the following order:

  1. Spouse or registered domestic partner
  2. Children (natural or adopted)
  3. Parents
  4. Brothers and sisters
  5. Probated estate
  6. Trust, if one exists
  7. Stepchildren
  8. Grandchildren (including stepgrandchildren)
  9. Nieces and nephews
  10. Great grandchildren
  11. Cousins

How Do I Learn More?

To help you determine changes to make to your CalPERS benefits if you’re impacted by one of these events, review our publication Changing Your Beneficiary or Monthly Benefit After Retirement (PUB 98) (PDF). This publication is helpful when you need to do one of the following:

  • Add or change your lump-sum beneficiary designation.
  • Modify your retirement payment option and/or life option beneficiary.
  • Request a benefit allowance increase due to removal of your option beneficiary.

The changes you’re eligible for depend on the life event, the retirement payment option you chose when you retired, and the type of change you want to make.

You can also call our Customer Contact Center at  888 CalPERS (or 888-225-7377) for help with your questions, or submit your questions online through your myCalPERS account.