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Coverage A survivor benefits—If you die before retirement

Under Coverage A, benefits are payable to your survivors if you became a member of CalSTRS before October 16, 1992, and did not elect Coverage B in the election held between October 1992 and April 1993.

One-time death benefit

Under Coverage A, if you die before retirement, CalSTRS pays a $6,903 one-time death benefit to your designated recipient or recipients. This amount is adjusted periodically by the Teachers’ Retirement Board.

  • If more than one recipient is named, the payment is divided equally, unless you specify other percentages of distribution.
  • If a recipient is not named, CalSTRS will make the one-time death benefit payment to your estate.

The one-time death benefit, plus any contributions and interest remaining in your account if you did not elect a beneficiary option, will be paid to your one-time death benefit recipient if you:

  • Were receiving a service retirement benefit at the time of death.
  • Were receiving or were eligible to receive a disability retirement benefit at the time of death.
  • Had at least one year of service credit and died:While an active CalSTRS member.Within four months of terminating CalSTRS-covered employment.Within four months of terminating a disability benefit, if no CalSTRS service was performed.Within 12 months of the last day of paid CalSTRS-covered service, if on an approved leave of absence without compensation for reasons other than disability or military service.
  • Die while performing military service if you otherwise would have been eligible for benefits had you continued working and accruing service credit under CalSTRS.

If you refund your account and then later reinstate to CalSTRS membership, your previous one-time death benefit recipient designation will be invalidated.

If you return to CalSTRS membership after taking a refund and name a one-time death benefit recipient, the benefit can be paid only if you have subsequently earned or accumulated one year of service credit.

Eligibility for Coverage A

For survivors to be eligible for the Coverage A monthly survivor benefit (family allowance), you must have met the same eligibility requirements as for the one-time death benefit described above, and you:

  • Cannot have a preretirement election of an option in effect.
  • Must have earned at least one year of CalSTRS service credit since reinstatement from service retirement, if applicable.
  • Must have earned at least one-half year of service credit after a break in service of more than one year, if applicable.

Under Coverage A, a monthly survivor benefit is payable to your:

  • Surviving spouse or registered domestic partner with eligible dependent children.
  • Eligible dependent children with no surviving spouse or registered domestic partner.
  • Surviving spouse or partner with no eligible dependent children.
  • Dependent parents.

If you have no surviving spouse or partner, eligible dependent children or dependent parents, any remaining Defined Benefit contributions and interest in your account will be paid to your one-time death benefit recipients. If no recipient was named, CalSTRS will make the payment to your estate.

For more information on how the family allowance is payable under Coverage A, refer to the Member Handbook.

Benefit reductions

CalSTRS will reduce the Coverage A survivor benefit by the amount of benefits payable by other public systems upon your death.

Benefits payable by other public systems include:

  • Workers' compensation.
  • Social Security income.
  • Federal military disability.
  • Employer-paid income protection plans.
  • Other disability programs financed with public funds.

A copy of any award letters from other public systems must be sent to CalSTRS so that payments can be adjusted.

Coverage A survivor benefit example

Rob dies at age 53. His survivors include his wife, Linda, and three eligible dependent children. His final compensation is $4,220.

Linda will receive a monthly survivor benefit (family allowance) of $2,954 as long as her children are eligible. As each child becomes ineligible, that child’s increment will no longer be included in the basic benefit, which will reduce Linda's monthly survivor benefit. In addition, an annual benefit adjustment increase of 2% of the basic benefit will be added to the monthly payment each September, beginning a year after Rob’s death.

When her youngest child reaches age 22 or is no longer eligible, Linda can choose one of these three options:

  • Take the remaining Defined Benefit contributions and interest in Rob’s account, less all previously paid benefits, as a lump sum.
  • Receive the surviving spouse/registered domestic partner benefit payable for her lifetime once she reaches age 60. She will receive a monthly payment based on Rob’s projected service credit and projected final compensation.
  • Receive a reduced surviving spouse/registered domestic partner benefit for her lifetime before normal retirement age, based on her age at that time.

Coverage A survivor benefit example

  • Member: Rob, age 53
  • Spouse: Linda, age 53
  • Children: Mike, 19; Mark, 17; and Sandy, 15
  • Service credit: 25 years

Final compensation: $4,220

a. Spouse's benefit: 40% x $4,220 =$1,688

b. Children's increment: 3 x 10% x $4,220 =$1,266

Coverage A survivor benefit with eligible children: (a+b) = $2,954

Monthly CalSTRS benefit to Linda: $2,954