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death benefits

Death Benefits

You are asked to designate primary and contingent beneficiaries when you are first enrolled in OPERS and again at retirement.  Designating beneficiaries is extremely important because it allows OPERS to pay death benefits to the appropriate parties in the event of your death. You may change your beneficiary at any time by completing a new form. This is important to remember if your beneficiary dies or if your marital status changes.

Each time you complete a beneficiary form, it cancels all prior beneficiary designations with OPERS for these death benefits. Your beneficiary change does not become effective until your Beneficiary Designation form is signed and received in the OPERS office. Note: This beneficiary form will not update any life insurance, SoonerSave beneficiaries, or the joint annuitant you may have named at retirement.

Primary versus Contingent Beneficiaries

You should name at least one primary beneficiary and one contingent beneficiary.

  • Primary beneficiaries are “first in line” to receive benefits upon your passing. All primary beneficiaries share equally, unless otherwise noted on the form.
  • Contingent beneficiaries only receive benefits in the event all primary beneficiaries die before or simultaneously with the member. All contingent beneficiaries share equally, unless otherwise noted on the form.

Information to Provide

Each time you complete a new form, it is important you provide the full legal name, address, relationship, date of birth and Social Security Number of each individual person (taxpayer identification number for each institution) you designate. You must also select whether the beneficiary is primary or contingent. Each piece of information helps ensure the named beneficiary is located and the proper person receives the correct distribution.

Divorce and Beneficiary Designation

Divorce voids the designation of your spouse as your beneficiary. Once your divorce is final, you are encouraged to complete a new designation form, naming a new beneficiary. You may designate a divorced spouse as your beneficiary, but you are still required to complete a new form, dated after the date of the divorce decree and renaming your former spouse as a beneficiary.

Applying for Member Death Benefits

Upon the death of a member, the beneficiary or member's next of kin must contact OPERS by calling (405) 858-6737 or 1-800-733-9008 as soon as possible. OPERS will mail the appropriate forms to the member's designated beneficiary and request any required documents.


Death of a Member Before Retirement

OPERS provides for one of two types of death benefits upon the death of an active or vested (non-retired) member:

  • Survivor Benefit
    If you were vested, eligible to vest, or eligible to retire at the time of your death, your legal surviving spouse is entitled to a survivor benefit. Your surviving spouse will be offered Option B survivor benefits.  Benefits shall be payable no earlier than the date you would have met the requirements for a normal or early retirement.  If your spouse elects to receive the survivor benefit, there will be no benefit payments to your other beneficiaries.


  • Accumulated Contributions
    If no surviving spouse benefit is to be paid at your death, a one-time lump-sum payment equal to your accumulated contributions will be distributed among your primary beneficiaries. If one or more of your primary beneficiaries are deceased, accumulated contributions will be distributed among your remaining living primary beneficiaries. Contingent beneficiaries will receive accumulated contributions only if there are no living primary beneficiaries.

Note:  If you are making a purchase through the installment payment plan at the time of your death, your survivor has the option to pay the remaining balance within six months.


Death of a Member During Retirement

When you pass away as a retired member, your monthly retirement benefit may continue, change, or end depending on the type of benefit you chose at retirement. In addition, certain death benefits will be distributed among your primary beneficiaries.  You will be provided with a form to designate a beneficiary upon retirement.  This beneficiary designation may be changed after your retirement date by completing a new form. 

The Beneficiary Designation form is to be used to designate or change beneficiaries to receive one or more of the following death benefits:

  • $5,000 Death Benefit
    Your beneficiary is entitled to a lump-sum cash payment (currently $5,000) upon your death. This death benefit is not insurance and is taxable to the beneficiary.  The $5,000 Death Benefit is payable only upon the death of a retiree, but not upon the death of a joint-annuitant.
  • Excess Accumulated Contributions
    Occasionally, upon the death of a retired member, the amount of member contributions paid into OPERS is more than the total received in monthly retirement benefits.  If you chose the Maximum Retirement Benefit Option at retirement and pass away before receiving in retirement benefits the balance of contributions you paid in to OPERS, the difference between your accumulated contributions and the cumulative monthly retirement benefits would be paid according to your beneficiary designation.
  • Final Monthly Benefit Payment
    If applicable, your final monthly benefit payment may be paid according to your beneficiary designation.
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