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Designating Your Beneficiaries

When was the last time you updated your beneficiary file with the Agency? Chances are there have been significant changes in your life since then. Take time to review your designations for survivor benefits. Be sure they are up-to-date and name those whom you want to receive benefits if you die while an active member. We can’t stress enough how important this is.

The Personal Statement of Benefits sent to you each fall lists the beneficiaries you have on file with us. You can also confirm your beneficiaries with our automated phone system or by speaking with a retirement benefits specialist. Find out more on the Contact page.

How to change your beneficiary designation

  1. Properly complete Form 4
    How to get it:
  2. Have it notarized
  3. Send it to us at 120 E. Baltimore Street, Baltimore, Maryland, 21202

Your beneficiary change will be made once we receive your valid form.

How beneficiaries are paid

Your plan, along with providing retirement security, also provides your beneficiaries with a lump sum payment if you die while an active member or while on an MSRA-approved leave of absence.

For most plans, after one year of eligibility service, the surviving beneficiary payment is your annual salary plus your accumulated contributions.

Primary beneficiaries are paid the survivor benefits. If all primary beneficiaries are no longer living, then benefits are paid to the living contingent beneficiaries. If no beneficiaries are living, then benefits are paid to your estate.

Payment is based on your most current Form 4 on file with us.

Other methods of payment

In place of the lump sum survivor benefits, a monthly lifetime benefit often referred to as the Spouse Law Benefit can be paid to the surviving spouse if the following conditions are met:

  1. The member must have named his/her spouse as the sole primary beneficiary; and
  2. The member must have either been eligible to retire, been at least age 55 with 15 years of eligibility service, or had at least 25 years of eligibility service at the time of death

If the spouse is not named by the member then under most plans the spouse is not eligible for benefits.

If a member names the spouse and his children as primary beneficiaries, the lump sum benefit will be split equally among them. In this instance, the spouse will not be eligible for the Spouse Law Benefit because the spouse is not the sole primary beneficiary. However, if all the primary beneficiaries other than the spouse waive their right to a benefit, then the spouse would be eligible to choose the monthly lifetime benefit.

The spouse may also be eligible for lifetime health insurance coverage if they receive a monthly retirement benefit under the Plan as the result of the death of the member.

Whether it is the best decision for you or your family for beneficiaries other than the spouse to waive their right to benefits is a decision that should be discussed with your tax or legal advisors.