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Workers & Retirees

Beneficiaries

PBGC makes three distinct types of payments to beneficiaries.

  1. Survivor benefits. If you chose an annuity form that provides survivor benefits, PBGC will pay them to the person that you designated at the time you applied for your pension benefits.
  2. Preretirement survivor benefits. If you are married and die before you begin receiving pension payments, PBGC will pay survivor benefits to your surviving spouse.
  3. Unpaid amounts owed to you at the time of your death. If, for example, after your death PBGC discovers that we had been paying you too little each month, we will pay the balance owed plus interest to a beneficiary.

Also, if you are entitled to or are receiving a survivor benefit when your plan ends, PBGC will continue to pay this benefit to you (adjusted for any guarantee limits) for the period provided by your plan.

Designating your beneficiary is very important, even if you have not yet begun to receive pension payments. You can find detailed instructions for naming a beneficiary or changing a previously named beneficiary with our online account service.

Participants receiving a pension benefit

PBGC pays survivor benefits if the benefit form you elected at the time you retired included a survivor benefit.

If you are receiving a joint-and-survivor annuity, you cannot change the beneficiary designation you made at the time you applied for benefits.

If your benefit is one that provides for survivor benefits to be paid after your death (as with a joint-and-survivor or certain-and-continuous annuity), the person named to receive those continuing benefits will receive any payments due to you at the time of your death. If your benefit does not provide survivor benefits, you may still name someone to receive any money that may be owed to you at the time of your death. If you do not name anyone, or if the person you name dies before you, PBGC will pay the amount owed to you in this order: your spouse, your children, your parents, your estate and your next of kin. See: Designate a beneficiary

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Participants not yet receiving a pension benefit

If you are married and die before you receive your first pension payment, PBGC will pay your surviving spouse a survivor benefit. Your spouse can begin this benefit as early as the date you would have been eligible to receive a benefit from PBGC.

If you are not married and die before receiving your first pension payment, PBGC may owe you money at the time of your death. You may designate a beneficiary to receive this money, which is typically a small lump-sum amount. See: Designate a beneficiary

  • When to select a benefit payment option:
  • When you apply for benefits, you will have an opportunity to select the form of annuity you want and to designate a beneficiary for survivor benefits to be paid after your death (as with a joint-and-survivor or certain-and-continuous annuity). PBGC must receive your application no more than 90 days before the date you request that your benefits begin. You may change your selection by filing a new application before the date of your first payment. After the date of your first payment, you cannot change your selection.
  • Different payment options:
  • Please see Your PBGC Benefit Options: Questions and Answers for Participants for information on this topic.

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Even survivors can have beneficiaries

If you are eligible to receive payments as the beneficiary of a pension plan participant, it is important that you also designate a beneficiary. PBGC makes two distinct types of payments that your beneficiary could become eligible to receive.

  1. Survivor benefits. If you are receiving an annuity, such as a Certain-and Continuous Annuity, that provides survivor benefits after your death, PBGC will pay them to the person that you designate.
  2. Unpaid Amounts owed to you at the time of your death. If after your death, PBGC discovers that we had been paying you too little each month, we will pay the balance owed plus interest to a beneficiary.

You can find detailed instructions for naming a beneficiary or changing a previously named beneficiary with our online account service.

  • Report the death of a participant:
  • To report the death of a person who is receiving or due a pension benefit from PBGC, please call us at 1-800-400-7242. For TTY/ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange) users, call the federal relay service toll-free at 1-800-877-8339 and ask to be connected to the number listed above. When you call, you will need the following information:
    • The deceased participant's name and address
    • The deceased participant's social security number
    • Your relationship to the deceased participant
    • Your phone number and address
    • The date of death

    Once you call PBGC with this information, we will send you a letter requesting a copy of the death certificate. If benefits are due, we will also send you several forms to fill out.

    If you have received payments issued to the deceased participant after the date of death, we will inform you how to return those payments.

  • Beneficiary application for benefits:
  • See information under "As beneficiary of a payee" on this page: Apply for your pension

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