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Survivor Options

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Michigan Office of Retirement Services

Survivor Options

Payment Options - Survivor Options

If you elect a survivor option when you apply for retirement, you receive a reduced pension throughout your lifetime. However, upon your death, your pension continues for the lifetime of your survivor pension beneficiary. You can name your spouse, child, sibling, or parent as your survivor pension beneficiary.

If you marry after your pension begins and you name your new spouse as a survivor pension beneficiary, upon your death, the pension payment will be paid for your spouse's lifetime provided your death does not occur within 12 months of naming your new spouse as a survivor pension beneficiary. Learn more information here.

If you elect the 100% survivor option, upon your death your survivor will receive the same monthly benefit you received (before any tax, insurance premium, or other deductions). If you elect the 75% option, your survivor receives 75% of your pension amount; with the 50% option your survivor will be paid half of your monthly pension payment.

The amount by which your pension will be reduced - or the survivor option factor - depends on your age, your beneficiary's age, and the survivor option you choose at retirement. The monthly pension amount for a survivor option is based on life expectancy tables that factor in life expectancies for you and your beneficiary.

When you use the Estimate Pension feature in miAccount, or run an estimate as part of applying for retirement, the factor associated with your age and your beneficiary's age will be used in the calculation. You can also use the Survivor Option Factor Lookup tool to view the factor based on the ages you enter. 

Additional notes about the survivor options

  • If you're married and name someone other than your spouse as your beneficiary, or you elect any option other than the 100% survivor option, your spouse must waive their right to your pension by signing the Pension Election and Spousal Waiver (R0869C) form in the presence of a notary public.
  • You are not able to change your option or your designated survivor pension beneficiary after your retirement effective date. However, if you marry after your pension begins, you may be able to name your new spouse as a pension beneficiary under certain conditions.
  • If you elect one of the survivor options but your pension beneficiary dies before you, your pension payment will increase to the straight life amount (either full or early reduced).
  • If you chose the straight life option and pass away with contributions remaining on deposit, the refund beneficiary you designated on the Pension Election and Spousal Waiver (R0869C) form or the Refund Beneficiary Designation for Retirees (R0748X) form will receive the remaining balance in a lump-sum payment. However, any contributions you paid into the retirement system are paid out first as part of your pension payments. Your total contribution is usually depleted in less than two years after retirement.
  • Upon your death, if you have the premium subsidy benefit, insurance benefits continue for your designated survivor pension beneficiary. Your eligible dependents who were covered at the time of your death may also continue to receive insurance benefits if you chose a survivor option and designated your spouse as your survivor pension beneficiary. These benefits continue as they did when you were alive. If you name a new spouse after your pension begins, upon your death, they can enroll in insurances but must pay the entire premium.
  • Upon your death, if you have the Personal Healthcare Fund, any eligible beneficiaries and dependents who were already enrolled in insurances at the time of your death may continue to be enrolled in insurances, but they will continue to be responsible for the entire premium. If they disenroll from the plan at any time, they will not be able to reenroll.
  • If you get divorced after your pension begins, and your spouse is your pension beneficiary, the court could order that your pension election be changed from a survivor option to the straight life option. For more information, see Divorce.
  • If you take the early reduced pension and choose a survivor option, your early reduced pension is calculated first. This amount becomes the basis for calculating your survivor option payment.

Do you have questions about your pension payment options? View this short e-learning module to explore your payment options. You can also download this handout as a quick reference.