General Information

Postretirement Option Changes

I am retired and elected an option for an ongoing monthly benefit to be paid to my option beneficiary after I die. May I change or cancel my option beneficiary?

If you are retired and wish to make a change to or cancel your option beneficiary, you must complete the applicable form.

If you want to change or cancel:

  • Your preretirement option election, you must make the change using a Preretirement Election of an Option form.
  • The election you made at the time of retirement on the Service Retirement Application, you must submit the Service Retirement Application Change Request form.

If you want to change or modify a compound option election made:

  • At retirement, you must submit the Compound Option Election form with the Service Retirement Application Change Request form.
  • Prior to retirement, you must submit the Preretirement Compound Option Election form.

CalSTRS must receive the applicable form no later than 30 days from the date your first benefit payment was issued. The effective date of your option change or cancellation is the day prior to your retirement date.

If you have a spouse or a registered domestic partner, they must also sign your forms. If you cannot obtain their signatures, you must submit the Justification for Non-Signature of Spouse or Registered Domestic Partner form.

After that, you can only change your option beneficiary under the following four circumstances:

  • If your option beneficiary dies.
  • If your option beneficiary is your spouse and you divorce.
  • If your option beneficiary is someone other than your spouse and you would now like to name your spouse.
  • If you get married after you retire and previously had not chosen an option and would like to name your new spouse.

You will need to complete the necessary forms and submit them to CalSTRS.

  • Change of Option Beneficiary After Retirement (Spouse or Registered Domestic Partner)
  • Change of Option Beneficiary After Retirement Due to Death
  • Election of Option After Retirement (Unmarried, Unregistered, Unmodified at Retirement)
  • Cancellation or Change of Option After Retirement (Dissolution of Marriage)

Forms for changing your option beneficiary within 30 days of receiving your first benefit payment are available on the Forms & Publications Ordering System. For all other forms, contact CalSTRS.

For more information about changing your option beneficiary, see the Member Handbook.

If I change my option and/or option beneficiary, will the amount of my monthly benefit change? And, how long will it take for my change to be reflected?

Yes, your monthly benefit will be modified to reflect your option election and your choice of option beneficiary.

For changes no later than 30 days from the date your first benefit payment was issued, the effective date of your option change or cancellation is the day prior to your retirement date.

For changes after 30 days from the date your first benefit payment was issued, the option beneficiary change will take effect six months after your request is received by CalSTRS. At the end of the six-month waiting period, your monthly benefit will be reduced to reflect your age and the age of your new option beneficiary.

I am retired, my option beneficiary has died and I would like to elect a new beneficiary. How do I name a new option beneficiary?

You may change your option beneficiary regardless of which option you originally elected.

To change your option beneficiary, you must fill out the Change of Option Beneficiary After Retirement Due to Death form.

Contact CalSTRS for this form.

If you are changing your option beneficiary to someone other than your current spouse, you will need to have your spouse sign your Change of Option Beneficiary After Retirement Due to Death form.

If you are unable to obtain your spouse’s signature, then you will need to fill out a Justification for Non-Signature of Spouse or Registered Domestic Partner form.

Once CalSTRS receives the completed forms, we will send you an estimate of your new monthly retirement benefit.

My first option beneficiary died. What kind of change might I see in my retirement benefit when changing my option and/or option beneficiary?

All benefits are affected differently based on individual criteria. Here are two examples:

Example 1:
Peter retired in 1992 and elected the 100% Beneficiary Option to cover his spouse, Jill. Unfortunately, Jill died before Peter and as a result, his benefit increased to the Member-Only Benefit. Peter remarried and now wishes to name his new spouse, Linda, as his option beneficiary. At the time the new beneficiary election takes effect, Peter will be age 67 and Linda will be age 64.

  Benefit Amount Before Change New Benefit Change
Benefit: $2,000 $1,576 -$424
Annual Benefit Adjustment: $460 $362 -$98
TOTAL: $2,460 $1,938 -$522

If Peter dies, Linda will continue to receive $1,938 for the rest of her lifetime. If Linda dies before Peter, his benefit will return to $2,460, per month.

Example 2:
Terry retired in 1979 and elected the 50% Beneficiary Option to cover her spouse, Robert. Unfortunately, Robert died before Terry and as a result, her benefit increased to the Member-Only Benefit. Terry remarried and now wishes to name her new spouse, Mike, as her option beneficiary. At the time the new beneficiary election takes effect, Terry will be age 75 and Mike will be age 71.

  Benefit Amount Before Change New Benefit Change
Benefit: $900 $769 -$31
Annual Benefit Adjustment: $450 $384 -$66
Minimum Guarantee: $250 $214 - $36
TOTAL: $1,600 $1,367 -$233

If Terry dies, Mike will continue to receive $684 for the rest of his lifetime. If Mike dies before Terry, her benefit will return to $1,600, per month.

What if I receive the estimate of how my benefit will be modified if I elect a new option beneficiary and I decide that I do not want to go through with the change?

You will need to write to CalSTRS stating you wish to cancel your application for a Change of Option Beneficiary After Retirement. Your request must be received before the effective date of the new option beneficiary election.

Write to:

CalSTRS
Service Retirement Division MS #60
P.O. Box 15275
Sacramento, CA 95851-0275

Please remember to always include your Client ID and daytime phone number when writing CalSTRS.

I am retired and am receiving a monthly benefit under the 100% Beneficiary Option (or the 50% or 75% Beneficiary Option) and my option beneficiary has died. May I elect a new option?

No, if you are receiving a benefit under the 100%, 75% or 50% Beneficiary Option, you are not allowed to change options. However, you are allowed to elect a new option beneficiary if the current beneficiary has died.

The option beneficiary will take effect six months after your request is received by CalSTRS. At the end of the six-month waiting period, your monthly benefit will be reduced to reflect your age and the age of your new option beneficiary.

If I change options and/or option beneficiaries and receive a reduced monthly benefit as a result, will my quarterly supplemental payments also change?

Yes, the quarterly supplemental payment will be recalculated based on your new benefit amount. Since your benefit will decrease in order to ensure a lifetime monthly benefit to your new option beneficiary, your quarterly supplemental payments will also decrease.

What is the difference between a death beneficiary (one-time death benefit recipient) and an option beneficiary?

A death beneficiary, or one-time death benefit recipient, is chosen by the member to receive a one-time lump-sum death payment upon the member’s death. The amount of the lump-sum payment varies, depending on whether you have Coverage A or B, and if the death occurs before or after retirement.

An option beneficiary is chosen by the member to receive a lifetime monthly benefit upon the member’s death. The member’s retirement benefit is actuarially reduced to reflect the age of the member and the beneficiary when the option is elected; this reduction is to insure a lifetime monthly benefit to the beneficiary.

The same individual may be designated the beneficiary of both the lump-sum payment and the lifetime monthly benefit.

Commands