Planning for the Unexpected
The Survivor Benefits Program is a way you can make sure your spouse and dependents receive benefits in the event of your premature death. Under this program, qualified survivors can receive monthly benefits. If your beneficiary is not entitled to monthly benefits, he or she is entitled to the accumulated contributions in your individual account. For more detailed information about the program, refer to the Survivor Benefits Guide.
Qualifying Conditions for Members
You must meet certain requirements in order to qualify your beneficiary for monthly survivor benefits. These include that:
- You have at least 1½ years of contributing service credit.
- At least ¼ year of Ohio service credit was earned within the 2½ years prior to your death. This requirement is waived if you are receiving a disability benefit from one of the other Ohio retirement systems at the time of death or are eligible to retire.
- You cannot be receiving a regular retirement benefit.
Designating Your Beneficiary
Most members find that the succession of beneficiaries prescribed by Ohio law meets their requirements. This succession is as follows:
- Your surviving spouse
- All surviving children sharing equally
- A dependent parent age 65 or older
- Parents sharing equally
- Your estate
If the order in the law does not meet your requirements, you can designate a new beneficiary by signing into Account Login to update your SERS account records. Each new beneficiary designation revokes all previous designations of beneficiaries.
If, at the time of your death, you are survived by qualified children, they may receive monthly benefits, regardless of your designation. A qualified child is any: unmarried natural or legally adopted child under the age of 19, or regardless of age, if adjudged physically or mentally incompetent.
Qualifying Conditions for Your Beneficiary
Your beneficiary must meet the following requirements to qualify for monthly survivor benefits:
- Surviving spouse – age 62 or any age if member had 10 or more years of service credit
- Surviving spouse – at any age, with minor child(ren)
- Disabled surviving spouse, child at any age
- Natural and adopted children under age 19
- Dependent parent(s) age 65 or older
- Any combination of the above
In order to be eligible for SERS disability, the spouse and/or child are required to be examined by a SERS-appointed physician, who will make the medical determination.
Continuing Eligibility of Beneficiaries
A spouse of a member who had less than 10 years of service credit may have benefits suspended if the spouse is younger than age 62 and began receiving benefits because the spouse was caring for qualified children. This “blackout” period begins when the last child becomes ineligible for benefits and lasts until the spouse reaches age 62. Benefits will end when the spouse dies.
Benefits for a child will terminate when the child:
- No longer meets the above mentioned eligibility requirements for children
- Enter the military
- Is adopted
Benefits to a dependent parent end when the parent:
Monthly benefits will be paid to a spouse and/or qualified children under Schedule I, II, or III, whichever is greater. For more information on the schedules, see the Survivor Benefits Guide. If there are no qualified children, the spouse or other beneficiary can elect a lump-sum refund of the member’s contributions instead of monthly benefits.
If a member is eligible for service retirement when death occurs but has not yet retired, and is survived only by a spouse or a dependent beneficiary, the spouse or the dependent beneficiary can choose to accept a monthly payment equal to that which the member could have provided the beneficiary if the member had retired.
Combining Service Credit
If the member had been employed in a job covered by STRS or OPERS as well as in a job covered by SERS, qualified survivors must combine the member’s service credit and accounts in all the systems to receive a survivor benefit. The system with the greatest service credit will be the system that will calculate and pay your benefit.
Service credit can affect the amount of some benefits and when they begin. Survivors can purchase any credit the member was eligible to purchase, including military service, SERS credit cancelled by withdrawal, school service outside Ohio’s public system, service within the Ohio Police & Fire or State Highway Patrol, and noncontributing service.