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Adding, Changing or Canceling Your Option Election

You can change your option beneficiary after retirement only under four circumstances.

Death of Beneficiary: If your original option beneficiary dies after the effective date of your retirement, you may elect a new option beneficiary.

You may elect a new option beneficiary by completing the required form and submitting a certified copy of the death certificate to CalSTRS. The appropriate reduction to your benefit will be made.

Even if you choose not to elect a new beneficiary, you must notify CalSTRS if your beneficiary dies after your retirement effective date and send us a copy of the death certificate. If you elect a new option beneficiary, the election will be effective six months after CalSTRS receives your new designation. While you can name a new beneficiary, you cannot change the original option you elected.

Divorce: You may cancel your option election if your option beneficiary is your current or former spouse or registered domestic partner, and either:

  • A final decree of dissolution of marriage or registered domestic partnership has been entered, or led an endorsed termination of registered domestic partnership, or
  • A judgment of nullity has been entered, or
  • An order of separate maintenance has been made on or after January 1, 1978.

The notification to cancel the option must include a certified copy of the final judgment, court order or any property settlement agreement confirming you are no longer required to maintain the former spouse as an option beneficiary.

After you notify CalSTRS, you may elect to receive the Member-Only Benefit, elect a new option or designate a new option beneficiary. Your choice must be consistent with the court order or judgment and must not result in any liability to CalSTRS.

If you cancel your option election, the amount that your benefit was previously reduced will not be reimbursed to you.

Spouse or Partner: If you had previously designated a person other than your current or former spouse or registered domestic partner as your option beneficiary, you may cancel your option beneficiary election and designate your spouse or partner as your new option beneficiary.

Your benefit will be subject to an actuarial reduction based on your age and the age of your spouse or partner.

If you elect a new option beneficiary, the election will be effective six months after CalSTRS receives the new designation. While you can name a new beneficiary, you cannot change the original option you elected. 

Newly Married or Registered in Domestic Partnership: If you were unmarried or unregistered at retirement and receiving a Member-Only Benefit, you can choose an option and name your new spouse or partner as an option beneficiary if you later marry or register in a domestic partnership.

You must be married or registered at least one year before electing the option and naming the option beneficiary.

Your benefit will be subject to an actuarial reduction based on your age and the age of your spouse or partner. Your new option election and beneficiary addition will be effective six months after CalSTRS receives the designation.

Benefit Adjustment

When you choose a new option or a new option beneficiary, an adjustment to your benefit will be made. Before changing your option or choosing a new option beneficiary, contact CalSTRS  to get an estimate of your benefit based on your new election. Your election cannot be changed once CalSTRS receives it except if your beneficiary dies.

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