Death Benefits

If you die before you retire, there are various death benefit options available for your beneficiary or beneficiaries based on the type of beneficiary you have and how many years of service credit you have.

Designating a Beneficiary or Beneficiaries

Keeping your beneficiary up-to-date is important. A beneficiary is the person or persons that you (the member) name to receive various SBCERA death benefits. You may name any person or persons as your beneficiary. In addition, you may name your estate, but you cannot designate a trust. You can choose primary and alternate beneficiaries. A primary beneficiary is the first-named person or persons who would receive these benefits from SBCERA. The alternate beneficiary is the person or persons who would receive these benefits from SBCERA if you had no living primary beneficiaries at the time of your death.

While you are an active member, you can change your beneficiary at any time. If you change your beneficiary with your employer or other benefit providers, it will not change with SBCERA; you must notify SBCERA of the change by completing a Beneficiary Designation/Change form.  This form requires a spouse or domestic partner’s signature, if you do not have one or they are unable to sign the form, you must also complete a Justification for Non-Signature of Spouse or Domestic Partner form.

A surviving spouse, domestic partner or minor child, if not the named beneficiary, may have certain rights superseding the rights of the beneficiary you have designated. If you only have surviving unmarried children under the age of 18, a legally-appointed guardian of the children will make the election for death benefits. The court must appoint a legal guardian over the estate of the minor children. If a biological parent exists, they still must be appointed the guardian of the estate of the minor children.

Active Member Death Benefit Options

Below is a summary of the death benefit options available for your beneficiaries if you die prior to retirement as an active SBCERA member:

Nonservice-Related Death Benefits

  • Less than Five (5) Years of Service Credit: If you die before you are vested, your designated beneficiary or beneficiaries will receive a lump-sum payment of any refundable contributions and interest in your SBCERA retirement account, plus one month’s compensation for each completed year of service credit up to a maximum of six months’ compensation.
  • Five (5) or More Years of Service Credit: If you are already vested at the time of your death, the following options are available:

    Optional Death Allowance

    Your eligible spouse, registered domestic partner or eligible child will receive a monthly payment equal to 60% of the amount awarded in a nonservice-connected disability retirement or a service retirement (if eligible at the time of your death), whichever is greater. A spouse or registered domestic partner would receive this allowance for the rest of their lifetime. A child would only receive the allowance while they were eligible.

     Modified Optional Death Allowance:

    Your eligible spouse or registered domestic partner will receive a lump-sum payment of one month’s compensation for each completed year of service credit up to a maximum of six months’ compensation; plus a reduced monthly lifetime benefit that would depend on the age of the beneficiary.

    Death Benefit (Lump-Sum Payment):

    Any named beneficiary including a spouse, adult child, sibling or your estate, will receive a lump-sum payment of any refundable contributions and interest, plus one month’s compensation for each completed year of service credit up to a maximum of six months’ compensation.

Additional Death Benefits for General Members: Survivor Benefit & Burial Allowance

If you are a General member with at least 18 months of continuous membership with SBCERA, your spouse and/or dependent children may also be entitled to a monthly survivor benefit.  In addition, your beneficiary would qualify for a $255 burial allowance.

Service-Related Death Benefit

A service-related death is one resulting from a service-connected injury or disease arising from or in the course of your employment with a participating employer. If your death is service related, your surviving spouse or registered domestic partner may receive 100% of what would have been paid in a service-connected disability. In other words, this will be a lifetime monthly benefit equal to 50% of your active final average monthly compensation.

Additional Death Benefits for Safety Members

If you are a Safety member and you die while in the performance of duty, your spouse will receive an additional lump-sum payment equal to one year’s compensation. If you have eligible children, your spouse will receive an additional monthly benefit as follows:

  • One child—25% of the amount you were receiving as active compensation each month.
  • Two children—40% of the amount you were receiving as active compensation each month.
  • Three or more children—50% of the amount you were receiving as active compensation each month.

Estimating these Benefits

Interested in calculating how much some of these benefit options would be? Use our online benefit estimator to calculate how much your beneficiary may receive for the optional death allowance, modified death allowance, death benefit lump sum payment  and/or a service-related death benefit if something happened to you prior to your retirement.