Survivor Benefits

There are several types of survivor benefits available to members of Massachusetts contributory retirement systems. The benefit types and benefit amounts that are payable depend on a number of factors, including:

  • a member’s creditable service,
  • a member’s salary,
  • a member’s cause of death, and
  • a member’s date of death.

The types of survivor benefits available include:

  • benefits based on a member’s retirement option selection,
  • benefits for members in service who die prior to retirement,
  • benefits for accidental disability retirees, and
  • benefits for certain public safety officials who are killed in the line of duty.

For information on survivor benefits available to members who die prior to retirement or who are killed in the line of duty, please go to the Active Members tab and click on the Death Before Retirement link.

Retirees may provide survivor benefits to designated beneficiaries as well.

Option Selection-Based Survivor Benefits

When members apply for retirement, they must choose an option that determines how their retirement allowance will be allocated.  It will also determine what survivor benefits, if any, are available after their death.

There are three options available at retirement: Option A, Option B and Option C.

Option A provides the highest payment to the retiree.  There will be no benefits paid to survivors after the retiree’s death.

Option B provides a benefit that is approximately 2% less than Option A.  When the retiree dies, the balance of the retiree’s contributions, if any, is paid to the retiree’s named beneficiaries in one lump sum.  If there is no balance remaining in the retiree’s annuity savings account, no payment will be made to the designated beneficiaries. A member may designate as many beneficiaries as he or she would like, and apportion the benefit among the beneficiaries as desired.

Option C provides a benefit that is approximately 7% to 14% less than Option A. Known as the joint and last survivor allowance, one named beneficiary will receive a monthly benefit for the rest of his or her life.  The survivor benefit is equal to two-thirds (2/3) of the retiree’s monthly allowance being paid at the time of the retiree’s death.  Only certain people are eligible to be named an Option C beneficiary:

  • a member’s spouse
  • a member’s former spouse who has not remarried,
  • the member’s child,
  • the member’s parent, or
  • the member’s sibling.

If a named Option C beneficiary predeceases the retiree, the retiree will be paid the full retirement allowance that would have been received had the retiree selected Option A. This is referred to as an Option C “Pop-Up.”

For more information, go to PERAC’s Guide to Survivor Benefits found on the Resources tab.

Survivor Benefits for Accidental Disability Retirees

Accidental death benefits may be available to eligible beneficiaries of a member who retired under an accidental disability retirement if the retirement board finds the death of the retiree to be the natural and proximate result of the injury or hazard for which the member’s accidental disability retirement was granted.

The benefit is equal to 72% of the annual rate of regular compensation on the date of injury, or compensation for the last 12 months, whichever is greater.  It will never be less than the pension portion of the allowance the member had been receiving at the time of death.  For Option B retirees, the accidental death survivor benefit will also include payment of any remaining accumulated total deductions in one lump sum to the designated beneficiary.

If an accidental disability retiree’s death is not found to be a direct result of the injury or hazard that caused the member’s retirement, the survivor benefits available generally depend upon the option selected at retirement. See the Option Selection-Based Survivor Benefits link above.  For members who retired for accidental disability retirement before November 7, 1996, an additional allowance may be available.  Please contact our office for assistance.

For more information, go to PERAC’s Guide to Survivor Benefits found on the Resources tab.