When an underfunded defined benefit pension plan is terminated, PBGC steps in to pay the plan’s guaranteed benefits. When a participant entitled to a PBGC benefit dies, benefits may be payable to a surviving spouse or other beneficiary. In some cases, an executor or personal representative of an estate may be able to collect pension-related payments owed to the deceased person. This document offers general information on PBGC’s eligibility rules for receiving benefits when a participant or beneficiary dies.
A: PBGC only pays benefits of certain underfunded defined benefit pension plans (see How to Know if Your Pension Plan is Covered). To determine if the deceased person was receiving or owed benefits from PBGC, consider the following sources:
- Bank statement(s) indicating a direct deposit from PBGC credited to the deceased person’s account.
- IRS Form 1099-R from PBGC.
- PBGC’s list of All Trusteed Plans (you must know the name of the pension plan).
- PBGC’s Find an Unclaimed Pension database.
- Communications or documents from PBGC or the deceased person’s former employer.
- Information from relatives, former co-workers, or union personnel concerning the deceased person’s participation in a pension plan.
A: In most cases, the beneficiary of any payments owed at the payee’s death will have already been determined by the payee or by PBGC. If you’re unsure, please contact PBGC.
A: To report the death of a person who is receiving or may be 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 person’s name and address
- The deceased person’s Social Security or customer identification number
- Your relationship to the deceased person
- 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 and proof of your appointment as executor or estate administrator. If benefits are due, we will also send you a form requesting basic information about the deceased person, as well as the estate’s preferred form of payment.