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What to do when a member dies

If you die while in service, your designated beneficiary — or your estate, if you have not designated a beneficiary — may be entitled to your accumulated contributions with interest, a death benefit and any TDA contributions. Below are some benefits family members and dependents may be eligible to receive after an in-service member passes away. Also see our list of steps to take in the event of a member's death for additional information: 

What to do when an in-service member passes away

Accumulated contributions

Your beneficiary on file may be entitled to your Member Contribution Accumulation Fund, your Annuity Savings Accumulation Fund — the supplemental $400 per annum contributed by the employer on behalf of UFT-represented workers (pedagogues only) on the maximum of their salary schedules — and any Additional Member Contributions.

Qualified Pension Plan death benefit

All TRS/BERS members participate in the Qualified Pension Plan. When a member dies, the member’s designated beneficiaries may be eligible to receive a pension death benefit. The benefit under the Qualified Pension Plan is generally one year’s salary after one year of service, two years’ salary after two years and three years’ salary after three or more years.

While you’re working, your death benefit is limited by your age at death. At age 61, the benefit is reduced to 95 percent of the benefit payable at age 60. Each year thereafter, the benefit is reduced by an additional 5 percent of the benefit payable at age 60. When an in-service member reaches age 70, the death benefit equals 50 percent of the benefit payable at age 60. The benefit will not be reduced below 50 percent of three years’ salary.

If you die after you retire, TRS/BERS will generally provide a post-retirement benefit to beneficiaries. This lump-sum amount is in addition to any benefit resulting from the payment option you elect:

  • During the first year of retirement, the benefit is 50 percent of the benefit covering the member at retirement.
  • During the second year of retirement, the benefit is 25 percent of the benefit covering the member at retirement.
  • During the third year and thereafter, the benefit is 10 percent of any benefit payable at age 60 or the benefit payable at retirement if the member retired before age 60.

See TRS's Guide to Death Benefits for the Beneficiaries of Non-Retired Members for more information. 

TDA death benefit

TRS/BERS members may also participate in the Tax-Deferred Annuity (TDA) program, an optional investment plan. When a TDA participant dies, the member’s designated TDA beneficiaries may be eligible to receive the balance of the member’s TDA account or establish a TDA beneficiary account with TRS.

Designation of beneficiaries

UFT-represented DOE employees may designate beneficiaries under the Qualified Pension Plan and the TDA program. If you do not have a valid beneficiary designation on file with TRS or BERS, death benefits are generally paid to your estate. If you have a change in marital status or dependents, or if the designated beneficiary dies, you should designate a new beneficiary. Nearly 29,000 in-service TRS members represented by the UFT, the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators, and the Professional Staff Congress combined have not filed beneficiary forms. If they die, survivors face a lengthy legal process to claim benefits.

Since TRS and BERS distribute death benefits in accordance with the most current beneficiary information on file, you should periodically review your beneficiary designations. You can update Qualified Pension Plan and TDA beneficiaries by calling TRS at 888-869-2877 or visiting the TRS website. BERS members may call 929-305-3800.

UFT Welfare Fund death benefit

All eligible in-service UFT-represented workers are also covered by the UFT Welfare Fund death benefit. This benefit is paid on a gradually decreasing scale as employees grow older to take into account the equity that older UFT-represented workers have in TRS/BERS. For more information, contact the UFT Welfare Fund at 212-539-0500.

Life insurance

  • Paraprofessionals are entitled to a straight $2,500 life insurance policy from the UFT. To claim this benefit, the family should write: UFT Accounting Department, 52 Broadway – 11th Floor, New York, NY 10004 
  • Many of our members have AFT and NYSUT life insurance policies administered by Marsh Affinity Group Services. If there is a possibility that a member might have life insurance with them, the family should write or call their Customer Service Department at: Mercer Consumer, 12421 Meredith Drive, Urbandale, IA 50398 888-386-9788. To request information or ask whether a policy is in effect when writing, be sure to give the exact date of death.

NYSUT benefit

UFT members are automatically members of our state organization, NYSUT, and are insured by NYSUT in the event of death or dismemberment due to accidental injury. For additional information, call NYSUT Membership Benefits at 800-626-8101.


Notify the school personnel secretary. Be sure to request information about the following: A. Possible pay due, B. Days remaining in the Cumulative Absence Reserve (CAR days) and C. Pro-rated summer pay. 

Social Security

Notify Social Security as you may be eligible for survivors’ benefits. Contact your local office or call 800-772-1213.