Survivor Checklist


Upon an OCERS member’s death, certain benefits may be payable to a surviving spouse, domestic partner, or designated beneficiary(ies). Use this section as a guideline and allow us to help you through a time of sorrow with any death benefit(s) related matters.

Step 1: Notify OCERS of the member’s death

  • Call (714) 558-6200 to report the member’s death as soon as possible. OCERS requires an original certified copy of member’s death certificate. Photocopies are not acceptable.
  • Once notified of a member’s death, OCERS will research the member’s file to determine any applicable survivor and/or death benefits.

Step 2: Submit required documents

  • OCERS will send the nominated beneficiary(ies) or surviving spouse/domestic partner a letter regarding required documents and or forms to be completed in order to issue any applicable payment(s). The required documents vary according to the specific circumstances of each member’s account.  Please allow two weeks for research and review of the account. If you have not been contacted at the end of two weeks please contact the OCERS Member Services Department at (714) 558-6200.

A few of the most commonly required documents include:

  • Original or original certified copy of the Marriage Certificate or Certificate of the Registered Domestic Partnership
  • Original or original certified copy(ies) of the Birth Certificate(s) of the qualified spouse/domestic partner or qualified minor child(ren)
  • Social Security Number (or Tax Identification Number) of beneficiary(ies)
  • Photocopy of valid Driver’s License or State ID of beneficiary(ies)
  • To pay benefits to a trust or estate, OCERS must have the Tax Identification Number (TIN) issued to the trust or estate by the Internal Revenue Service.

 Step 3: Receiving benefit payment(s)*

  • Monthly Survivor Benefits commence with the payroll cycle immediately following the deceased member’s last payment. 
  • Lump Sum Death Benefit payments are issued to designated beneficiaries within 30 days after receiving all the required documents. This benefit is taxable and will have mandatory federal and state taxes withheld.

* Benefit processing time may vary according to how soon OCERS receives all required documents.

NOTE: Because of community property laws in the State of California, a spouse, ex-spouse, or qualified domestic partner may have certain rights that supersede those of designated beneficiaries.

Key Terms

Survivor Benefits:  Benefits payable from the Retirement System to an Eligible Spouse or Domestic Partner after the member’s death. In the absence of an Eligible Spouse or Domestic Partner, the decedent’s Eligible Child(ren) may qualify for Survivor Benefits.

Eligible Spouse or Domestic Partner:  The person to whom you are legally married or with whom you have a registered domestic partnership. For purposes of receiving benefits, the term has different meanings depending on the situation.

Retired Member – Survivor: In order to be considered an eligible spouse or domestic partner for the purpose of receiving a monthly Survivor Benefit you must be legally married or entered domestic partnership at the time of the member’s passing and marriage/domestic partnership must have taken place a year prior to member’s retirement. If the marriage or domestic partnership took place after the member’s retirement, the couple must be continuously married or registered domestic partnership for at least two years and the survivor must be at least 55 years of age at the time of member’s passing.

Active Member – Survivor: A spouse or domestic partner who married or entered into a duly registered domestic partnership with the member prior to the member’s death. No minimum length of marriage or domestic partnership requirement applies.

Eligible Child (Children): Child/children under the age of 18, or under the age of 22 if unmarried, and a full-time student. This includes adopted children.

In the absence of a surviving spouse or domestic partner, the decedent’s unmarried minor child(ren) under age 18 is deemed a survivor. Eligibility may be extended through age 22 if the eligible child(ren) remain(s) unmarried and in full-time student status in an accredited educational institution. For the Nonservice-connected and Service-connected Disability Retirement allowance, an Eligible Child is a natural or adopted child of the deceased member, or a stepchild living or domiciled with the deceased member at the time of his or her death.