You can take comfort in knowing that your benefits will help take care of your family after your death.
We provide two types of death benefits: a beneficiary refund, which consists of any remaining accumulated contributions, and survivor benefits.
Each benefit may be paid to separate beneficiaries or both benefits may be paid to the same beneficiaries.
The type of benefit for which beneficiaries are eligible is determined by their status at the time of your death. Effective June 1, 2011, Illinois law entitles a party to a civil union to the same legal obligations, responsibilities, protections, and benefits as are afforded or recognized by the law of Illinois to spouses. A dependent beneficiary may choose between a lump-sum payment or monthly benefits. A nondependent beneficiary receives a lump-sum payment. If we do not have a Beneficiary Designation form on file for you, death benefits are distributed as follows:
- a beneficiary refund is paid to your surviving spouse or civil union partner, or if there is not one, to your estate and
- survivor benefits are paid to an eligible dependent beneficiary, or if there is not one, to your estate.
Types of beneficiaries
A dependent beneficiary is
- a spouse to whom you have been married for at least one year, except where a child is born of the marriage in which case the one-year period is not applicable;
- a civil union partner to whom you have been partnered for at least one year;
- an unmarried natural or adopted child under age 18, or between ages 18 and 22 if he or she is a full-time student in an accredited educational institution, or an unmarried child of any age who is dependent by reason of a physical or mental disability and claimed as a dependent on your final federal income tax return; or
- a dependent parent who received at least half of his or her support from you for the 12-month period immediately prior to your death.
For an adopted child to be an eligible dependent beneficiary, the adoption proceedings must have been finalized prior to the member’s death and while the child was a minor. For purposes of determining dependency, “disability” is defined as an inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment that can be expected to last for a continuous period of 12 months or more.
Children, unless named as a beneficiary on the Beneficiary Designation form, are only eligible for benefits if they are the children of the surviving parent who will receive monthly benefits. In the case of a divorce, if the member names the new spouse or civil union partner and had children with the prior spouse or civil union partner, those children are not eligible for monthly survivor benefits.
A parent may be an eligible dependent beneficiary only if there is no other dependent beneficiary.
A nondependent beneficiary is any other designated person or entity that is not a dependent beneficiary.
You may designate a primary beneficiary on the Beneficiary Designation form to receive survivor benefits. If this individual is a dependent beneficiary, he or she may select either monthly benefits or a lump-sum benefit. Only a lump-sum benefit is payable if you designate both a dependent and a nondependent primary beneficiary.
Alternate beneficiaries named on your Beneficiary Designation form will receive benefits only if all designated primary beneficiaries are deceased. If your beneficiary designation includes more than one person, the benefits are divided equally among the living beneficiaries of that class (primary or alternate).
The automatic designation option on the Beneficiary Designation form is an alternative to naming specific individuals. Automatic designation names all eligible dependents as beneficiaries. If no dependent beneficiaries survive, the benefits are paid to your estate.
Designating a Trust
A trust can receive monthly survivor benefits on behalf of a minor child or a disabled dependent beneficiary. A trust cannot receive monthly survivor benefits on behalf of an adult dependent who is not disabled.
To pay a monthly survivor benefit to a trust, the following language is required in the trust.
“The trust is authorized to receive TRS monthly survivor benefits on behalf of (insert beneficiary name). The trustee will use the monthly TRS survivor benefit solely for the care and benefit of (beneficiary name) and will not divert (beneficiary name)’s benefits to some other purpose inconsistent with Article 1 or Article 16 of the Illinois Pension Code.”
Accumulated contributions are refunded as a lump-sum payment.
If you are an active or an inactive member, your beneficiaries will receive a return of all of your retirement contributions, plus interest, and the portion paid towards the annual increase in annuity. Refer to your TRS Benefits Report for the contributions and interest that are refundable after your death.
If you are an annuitant, your beneficiaries will receive excess accumulated contributions minus the amount you received as a retirement annuity.
Two types of survivor benefits exist: lump-sum and monthly.
Nondependent and dependent beneficiaries are eligible for a lump-sum survivor benefit if your death occurs:
- while you are an annuitant;
- while you are employed as a teacher;
- within the first 12 months following your last day of earnings as a teacher;
- while you are on an approved leave of absence;
- while you are receiving a nonoccupational or an occupational disability benefit; or
- while you are an inactive member and you have 20 or more years of service. For the purpose of determining eligibility for a benefit, service credit under the State Employees’ Retirement System of Illinois, the State Universities Retirement System, and the Public School Teachers’ Pension and Retirement Fund of Chicago is considered.
Nondependent beneficiaries are not eligible for monthly survivor benefits.
Dependent beneficiaries are eligible for monthly survivor benefits if you had:
- 1.5 years of TRS service credit; and
- at least 60 days of creditable service during the 18 months preceding your death.
If you are an annuitant and had at least one year of service after July 24, 1959, your beneficiaries are eligible for survivor benefits, provided that you had not taken a refund of those contributions prior to your death. If you are an annuitant, did not have service after July 24, 1959, and die after January 1, 1982, your surviving dependent beneficiaries are eligible for survivor benefits to a maximum of $200 per month plus a $1,000 one-time, lump-sum payment.
|When Survivor Benefits Begin for Dependents|
|Member Status at Time of Death|
|Active or Inactive||Annuitant*|
Spouse or civil union partner with minor children or
On the date of member’s death
First of the month following the date of member’s death
|Spouse or civil union partner not age 50 at time of member’s death||When spouse or civil union partner turns age 50 if married at least one year|
|Dependent parent not age 55 at time of member’s death||When parent turns age 55|
|* Your retirement annuity is payable through the month of your death.|
Duration of monthly benefits
Monthly survivor benefits will continue for the life of your spouse or civil union partner. A minor child will receive benefits until he or she reaches age 18 (or age 22 if he or she is a full-time student), marries, or dies, whichever is earlier. An adult child who is dependent by reason of a physical or mental disability may receive monthly survivor benefits for his or her lifetime if:
- he or she does not marry;
- he or she is not capable of substantial gainful employment; and
- we periodically receive a physician certification verifying his or her continuing disability.
Survivor benefits are payable through the end of the month in which the beneficiary’s death occurs. No further benefits are payable.
Teachers’ Retirement Insurance Program (TRIP) coverage
Dependent insurance coverage is terminated at midnight on the day of the member’s death. Dependents who are eligible for a monthly survivor benefit may re-enroll in TRIP and coverage will be reinstated retroactively to the date of cancellation.
Annual increases in benefits
Beneficiaries of members who elect the AAI Program and are eligible for monthly survivor benefits or monthly reversionary benefits will receive 1.5% noncompounded annual increases beginning the Jan. 1 occurring on or after the first anniversary of the applicable annuity. Each 1.5% annual increase is calculated using the original survivor or reversionary benefit.
Beneficiaries of members who do not elect the AAI Program and are eligible for monthly survivor benefits or monthly reversionary benefits will receive 3% compounded annual increases beginning the Jan. 1 after the applicable annuity begins. Each 3% annual increase is calculated using the current survivor or reversionary benefit, which includes prior increases.
Upon death, a family member should provide the deceased member’s name, Social Security number, and date of death. We will forward a letter and the appropriate forms to the member’s designated beneficiaries for completion. The application requires that beneficiaries provide a certified copy of the member’s death certificate as well as copies of a marriage or civil union certificate and a birth certificate for a surviving spouse or civil union partner.
Dependents may also receive a Survivor Benefits Election form to select either a monthly benefit or a lump-sum payment. This form will be accompanied by information regarding direct deposit of payments, federal income tax withholding, the Teachers’ Retirement Insurance Program (TRIP), and the taxability of survivor benefits. Once we receive the completed application and all required documents, benefits will be processed and then issued by the Office of the Comptroller.
An annuitant’s retirement benefits are payable through the end of the month in which his or her death occurs. The final payment to a deceased annuitant would be issued the first of the month following the date of death. Any payments issued to the annuitant beyond the final payment must be returned to TRS.
Determining survivor benefits
TRS disbursements are not subject to Illinois individual income taxes. However, they are subject to federal taxes (with the exception of occupational disability benefits).
Types of Beneficiaries
Time of Death
While employed or employed within 12 months of last day of credit
Lump sum up to the highest salary rate in the last four years or $1,000 and a monthly benefit1 generally not less than $4002 or $600 with minor children3
Lump sum up to the highest salary rate in the last four years
Annuitant or inactive member with 20 or more years of service5
Lump sum of $3,000 or 1/6 of the highest salary rate in the last four years4 or $1,000 and a monthly benefit generally 50% of member’s earned benefit at time of death
Lump sum of $3,000 or 1/6 of the highest salary rate in the last four years4
- Dependent beneficiaries are eligible for monthly survivor benefits if you had 1.5 years of TRS service credit and at least 60 days of creditable service during the 18 months preceding death.
- Certain circumstances might provide a monthly annuity less than $400 per month for an active member.
- TRS will pay 50 percent of the member’s earned retirement annuity at death if it is greater than the above amounts.
- Certain lump sums may be greater if the annuitant or inactive member has been in retirement or out of service for less than five years.
- Beneficiaries of inactive members with less than 20 years of service are not eligible for survivor benefits.