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Spouse Consent: Answering the Important Questions

If you are in the process of retiring from OPERS, or have simply come in contact with our retirement application, you may have come away with a few new questions about retirement. At OPERS, we are often asked questions about what spouse consent is, when it is necessary, and why it is required. In this article, we attempt to shed some light on the curious issue of spouse consent.

What is Spouse Consent and When is it Necessary? 
Under Oklahoma State law, the legal spouse of a retiring member of OPERS has a statutory right to survivor benefits in the form of a Joint and ½ Survivor Annuity (commonly referred to as Option A). 

Spouse consent is the written and legal acknowledgement required if an OPERS member is married at the time of retirement and chooses to retire under any benefit other than Option A. Spouse consent is also required if the member is choosing someone other than his or her current legal spouse as joint annuitant to receive survivor benefits. If either of these scenarios apply, the member’s current legal spouse must complete, sign, and date Part 5 of the Retirement Notice and Application. In doing so, the spouse is providing spouse consent.

Why is Spouse Consent Required?
Spouse consent is a necessary means for a spouse to waive his or her right to survivor benefits. In the case of a non-spouse being named as a joint annuitant, spouse consent is required to demonstrate a spouse’s acknowledgement that this other person is being named as the joint annuitant to receive monthly benefits upon the member’s death.
What Does This Mean for Me?
Spouse consent may be a bit confusing, and feeling confident of its application to your own unique situation may be even more unclear. Remember that spouse consent is only necessary if you are married at the time of retirement and wish to elect any benefit other than Option A with your spouse named as joint annuitant.

While it is no laughing matter, we do like to joke with our married retiring members that they should be happily married at the time of retirement and stay that way because your spouse has a say in the selection of your benefit, and if you get divorced during retirement, you cannot name someone new as your joint annuitant.

This article was first published in the Winter 2014 edition of the Retiring Right newsletter. Click here to view other newsletters. Not receiving your newsletter, update your address by completing the Change of Address form.

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