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 Benefits may be paid per statutory beneficiary order if there is no designation on file or the designation was revoked.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.

Online

Log in to my|CalPERS to name, review, or change your beneficiary.

Beneficiary designations made after August 5, 2013 are available in my|CalPERS. If you submitted a previous beneficiary designation, it may still be valid, but not viewable online. Contact us if you have questions about your account.

By Mail

Active members who want their death benefits paid to a designated beneficiary must complete a Pre-Retirement Lump Sum Beneficiary Designation (PDF) and mail it to the address listed on the form.

Retired members designated the beneficiary for their death benefits when they retired. There are limited situations after retirement when a member can choose a new option or beneficiary. To learn more, review Changing Your Beneficiary or Monthly Benefit After Retirement (PUB 98) (PDF).

The beneficiary designation on file with CalPERS becomes invalid or revoked when any of the following events occur:

  • Annulment
  • Birth or adoption of a child
  • Dissolution
  • Marriage or registration of domestic partnership
  • Member received a refund of contributions
  • Termination of a registered domestic partnership

A beneficiary designation filed after the initiation of a dissolution of marriage, an annulment, or termination of a registered domestic partnership is not revoked when the dissolution, annulment, or termination is finalized.

Unless a valid beneficiary designation is in effect at the time of death, benefits are paid to the closest surviving family members 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

If a member was legally married or in a registered domestic partnership at the time of death, their spouse or registered domestic partner may be entitled to their community property share of the contributions and interest earned during the marriage or registered domestic partnership, even if they named someone else as the beneficiary.