Designating or Changing Your ACERA Beneficiaries and Preparing Them for Your Death


Who Is Your Beneficiary?

As an active member, you had the opportunity to designate your beneficiary for death benefits when you entered ACERA membership, and active and deferred members can change their beneficiary any time prior to retirement.

Retired members had the opportunity at the time of retirement to name beneficiaries for continuance payments. Continuance beneficiaries, once designated, can’t be changed. Retired members can name beneficiaries for lump-sum death benefit payments at retirement and at any time during retirement.

Who is your beneficiary? You should log in to your online account to see who your designated beneficiary is. If the beneficiary is incorrect, or you have no beneficiary, you should change your beneficiary.

How to Change Your Beneficiary

Complete the appropriate form for you and mail it to us: 

Active and Deferred Members: Active or Deferred Member Beneficiary Designation Form

Retired Members: Retired Member Beneficiary Designation Form

Some Helpful Preparations to Make for Your Beneficiary

In addition to the checklist below, you may want to review this handy flyer, which contains a lot of the same information: Getting Your Affairs in Order Flyer

  1. Ensure your beneficiary information is up to date by reviewing your online account.
  2. Make a will. Every adult should have a will. It’s a good idea to see an estate-planning attorney to have your will done according to your wishes, especially if you have a more complicated estate. However, if expense is an issue or you believe your situation is fairly simple, you can make your own will for free: try
  3. Make an Advanced Healthcare Directive. An advanced directive allows you to choose someone to make health care decisions for you when you cannot (or do not want to) make health care decisions for yourself. It also allows you to state your treatment preferences if you have a terminal condition or if you are in a state of permanent unconsciousness.
  4. Make a life planning file. Get a folder, manilla envelope, or other container and put the following items in:
    1. Personal documents — birth certificates, passports, Social Security information, marriage certificate, divorce decree, military discharge papers, naturalization papers, your and your loved one’s wills, advanced healthcare directives, adoption papers, power of attorney, and burial instructions.
    2. Retirement and death benefit information — ACERA’s phone number and website, contact information for other pensions you have, and contact information for organizations for which are eligible for death benefits.
    3. Income tax information — copies of both state and federal income tax returns for the last two years.
    4. Property tax information — copies of tax bills, house and burial plot deeds, liens, and other related information.
    5. Insurance policies — life, auto, homeowners, property, accident, liability, and hospitalization policies.
    6. Bank and financial accounts — include locations of all checking and savings accounts, CDs, brokerage accounts, deferred compensation accounts, safe deposit boxes, savings bonds, stocks, bonds and any other securities owned.
    7. Credit cards — account numbers, phone numbers, and addresses.
    8. Associations and organizations of which you are a member — some of them could be helpful to your loved one.
    9. Friends and business associates who could be helpful. Also include names and numbers of your attorney, accountant, stockbroker, financial planner, insurance agent, and executor/executrix of your will.
    10. Survivor Checklist — A copy of ACERA’s Survivor Checklist  
  5. Make sure you show and/or tell your beneficiary where your life planning file is. Also tell your beneficiary where the following items are located:
    1. Titles and deeds to your house and other property
    2. Mortgage documents
    3. Safe combination
    4. Trust agreements

You Can Name Fund Custodians for Beneficiaries Under Age 18 to Avoid Court Appointment

If you are naming a minor child as a plan beneficiary, you may want to name an adult as “custodian” to receive and manage payments for the minor until an age you choose. Instructions for doing this without court supervision are included on the ACERA Retired Member Beneficiary Designation Form. If you do not name a custodian, court appointment and supervision of payments by a guardian must be established. This can sometimes be a lengthy process, which can involve legal or court fees. All funds will be distributed to a guardian if your beneficiary is under age 18. A lump sum distribution is paid for accounts valued at less than $10,000.

Spouses Have Legal Rights to Continuance Benefits, Which Supersede Any Other Named Beneficiaries

However, it is possible for your spouse to waive his or her rights to your benefits.