Life Changes

BENEFICIARY CHANGES

Your beneficiary is the person or people who receive any benefits payable from the retirement plan in the event of your death. A beneficiary can be a surviving spouse, minor child(ren) or any other person having an insurable interest in the life of the member.

It’s a good idea to review your beneficiaries every year or after a life-changing event, such as marriage, divorce, birth of a child or a death in the family. As an active or deferred member you may change your beneficiary at any time.

It is important that you keep your beneficiary designation up to date. If you die and have no surviving spouse, domestic partner, or beneficiary, any benefits owed are paid to your estate. A trust is not a person and does not have an insurable interest, and therefore is not eligible for a continuance or survivorship. Please contact SBCERS Member Services to review your beneficiary.

To change your beneficiary, submit a completed Beneficiary Designation Form to an SBCERS office.

RELOCATION & CHANGE OF ADDRESS

SBCERS distributes important communications such as your membership statement and the Popular Annual Financial Report to the mailing address on file.

To stay updated with your retirement benefits, notify SBCERS if you move address by submitting a completed Member Change of Address Notification Form.

DISSOLUTION OF MARRIAGE OR DOMESTIC PARTNERSHIP

Under California law, retirement benefits accrued during a marriage or domestic partnership are considered community property. The division of this property as the result of a dissolution of marriage or domestic partnership must conform to the County Employees Retirement Law and be agreed to by the Retirement System. Dissolutions may include additional court orders referred to as a domestic relations order (DRO). In order for the Retirement System to respond to a DRO issued in connection with dissolution, SBCERS must be joined as a party to the proceedings. Dissolutions processed by SBCERS prior to retirement are commonly referred to as Model A DROs, while dissolutions processed after retirement are commonly referred to as Model B DROs. The Retirement System has developed guidelines to assist members undergoing dissolution of a marriage or domestic partnership. Contact the Retirement Office for a copy of the guidelines.

Dissolution Prior to Retirement (DRO-A)

​Typically an active member’s account is divided into two separate accounts as ordered by the court. After the member’s account is split, each party gains control over his/her separate account and the non-member (ex-spouse or partner) may be eligible to:

  • Receive a refund of the accumulated contributions and interest in the nonmember account, or

  • Receive a monthly retirement allowance on the earlier of the member’s eligibility or the non-member’s eligibility for retirement; and

  • Name a beneficiary to receive any unpaid allowance and/or contributions payable at the time of the non-member’s death.

LEAVING EMPLOYMENT


Withdrawal

If you separate from employment with less than five years of vested service, you are not entitled to a retirement benefit unless you enter employment with another California public agency covered by a reciprocity agreement with SBCERS.

If you are not entering a reciprocal system you are entitled to a refund of your contributions and interest, or you may leave your contributions on deposit in anticipation of a return to County service. Retirement accounts of non-vested, non-reciprocal members do not earn interest after separation from regular employment.

A refund is made after receipt of:
Notice from the employer of separation or discontinuance of membership, and
Completed Disposition of Retirement Account document, available from an SBCERS Member Services representative.

Because your SBCERS retirement plan is a qualified retirement plan, any previously untaxed part of your refund is subject to income tax. If you receive a refund before age 59½, you will owe excise taxes for early withdrawal in addition to any ordinary income taxes. You may avoid excise taxes and defer income taxes by rolling the untaxed portion of your account over into an IRA or other qualified retirement plan. You may receive up to one year of service credit for your unused accumulated sick leave at time of retirement.

Deferred Retirement
If you separate from county service with more than five years of service credit, you may leave your contributions on deposit and take a Deferred Retirement upon reaching eligibility. To receive a deferred retirement, you must be vested and:

Leave your contributions in the system until you would have been eligible for retirement had you remained in service, and Apply to the Retirement Office to begin payment of benefits at least 6 months before your desired retirement date IF you intend to elect an optional benefit payment method, or Begin receiving a retirement allowance by April 1 of the year following the year in which you attain age 70½.

You may cancel your deferred retirement election and withdraw your contributions at any time before age 70½. The accounts of deferred vested members continue to be credited with interest semi-annually.

View the Considerations after Termination flyer to understand your options.

DEATH OF AN ACTIVE MEMBER & SURVIVOR BENEFITS


Death Before Retirement of a Non-Vested Member

General Plans 5A, 5B, 5C and 7A – If you are not vested (have less than five years of service) and die while employed, and if your death is not the result of a service-connected injury or illness, your designated beneficiary may be entitled to receive a basic lump sum Death Benefit consisting of:
A refund of your contributions and accumulated interest, and
One month’s final average salary for each year of your completed service up to a maximum of six months’ salary.

General Plan 2 – If you are not vested (have less than ten years of service) and die while employed, your designated beneficiary may be entitled to receive a basic lump sum Death Benefit consisting of a lump-sum payment of one month’s final average salary for each year of service up to a maximum of six months’ salary.

Death Before Retirement of a Vested Member
General Plans 5A, 5B, 5C and 7A – If you are vested (have five or more years of service) and die while employed, and if your death is not the result of a service-connected injury or illness, your eligible surviving spouse may elect to receive an Optional Death Allowance consisting of:
A monthly allowance for life equal to 60% of what you would have received if you had retired with a non-service-connected disability or service retirement, whichever is greater, or
A reduced monthly allowance plus a lump sum payment of one month’s final average salary for each year of service up to a maximum of six months’ salary, or
The basic lump-sum Death Benefit (refund of contributions and accumulated interest plus one months’ final average salary for each year of your completed service up to a maximum of six months’ salary) may be paid in whole or in monthly installments over a period not to exceed 10 years, plus interest on the unpaid balance.

Under General Plans 5A, 5B and 5C, your spouse may choose the basic lump-sum Death Benefit described above under Death Before Retirement of Non-Vested Member in lieu of the monthly Optional Death Allowance. If you do not have an eligible surviving spouse, the legal guardian of your eligible surviving child(ren) may make an election on behalf of the child(ren) from the choices described above.

If you have no surviving eligible spouse or child(ren), your designated beneficiary or estate receives only the basic lump sum Death Benefit.

General Plan 2 – If you are vested (have ten or more years of service) and die while employed, your designated beneficiary may be entitled to receive a basic lump sum Death Benefit consisting of a lump sum payment of one month’s final average salary for each year of service up to a maximum of six months’ salary.

Service-Connected Death Before Retirement
General Plans 5A, 5B, 5C and 7A – If you die while employed as a result of a service-connected injury or illness, your eligible surviving spouse may elect a Death Allowance consisting of a monthly allowance for life equal to 50% of your final average salary. If you have no eligible surviving spouse, payment may be made to the legal guardian of your eligible children (unmarried children under age 18 whose benefit may continue until age 22 if they remain continuously enrolled as a full time student at an accredited school). If you have no surviving eligible spouse or children, your designated beneficiary or estate receives only the basic lump sum Death Benefit.

General Plan 2 – If you die while employed, your designated beneficiary may be entitled to receive a basic lump sum Death Benefit consisting of a lump-sum payment of one month’s final average salary for each year of service up to a maximum of six months’ salary.

Death of a Deferred Member Before Retirement
General Plans 5A, 5B, 5C and 7A – If you defer and die before the effective date of your retirement, your designated beneficiary is eligible only for a refund of your contributions.

General Plan 2 – If you defer and die before the effective date of your retirement, there is no benefit for your designated beneficiary.