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FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

Information for Survivors and Beneficiaries
of Deceased WRS Participants

For family members dealing with the loss of a loved one, the days and weeks following the death can be an overwhelmingly busy and stress-filled time. Therefore, it’s understandable that people often forget to follow through with the Department of Employee Trust Funds (ETF). Please notify ETF as soon as possible in order to process payment of any death benefits payable. Call us toll free at 1-877-533-5020 or (608) 266-3285. We will want to know the following about the deceased:


What happens after ETF is notified of the death?

ETF determines whether any death benefits are payable and who is entitled to receive the death benefits. This process includes several steps:

WRS Retirement Benefits:

Death of a WRS annuitant (an individual who receives monthly annuity payments):

  • Stop the monthly payments.
  • Recover any payments issued after the date of death.
    • If an annuity payment was deposited electronically after the date of death, it will be recovered electronically from the deceased annuitant's account.
    • By law, any payments issued to the decedent after the date of death must be recovered; they are not the property of the named survivor or beneficiary(ies).
    • Payments due to the beneficiary(ies) as a death benefit will be reissued in the beneficiaries’ names.

  • Determine whether any death benefits are payable from the annuity. This will depend on the annuity option selected by the decedent, and if applicable, whether the named survivor is still living and/or how long the annuity has been effective.
  • Determine who is entitled to receive any WRS death benefits payable and locate the beneficiary(ies).
  • Send the death benefit estimates and application to the eligible beneficiary(ies).

Death of a WRS account holder (an active employee, or a former employee who has left his or her contributions invested with the WRS):

  • Determine who is entitled to receive the WRS death benefits payable and locate the beneficiary(ies).
  • Send the death benefit estimates and application to the eligible beneficiary(ies).

Life insurance:

  • Review the decedent’s records to determine whether he/she had group life insurance coverage administered through ETF.
  • If there is coverage, determine who the beneficiaries are.
  • Notify Minnesota Life Insurance Company (MLIC), the company that administers our group life insurance plan, of the amount of coverage and who the beneficiaries are. MLIC will contact the beneficiaries directly and issue payment to the beneficiary(ies).

ETF does not have information about any other employer-sponsored life insurance that the decedent may have had. Please contact the decedent’s former employer with questions about any other life insurance coverage.

Health insurance:

  • Determine if health insurance was in effect, and/or whether any
    dependents are entitled to continue coverage.
  • If the decedent was covered, determine whether the decedent’s
    estate is due any refund of premiums.
  • If the decedent was a state employee, determine whether any
    sick leave credits remain to pay health insurance premiums.

Which is the last payment due to a deceased annuitant?

The last payment due to a deceased annuitant is the payment issued on the first day of the month in which he or she died.

  • No payment is due to the annuitant for the month in which he or she died.
  • If a death benefit is payable from the annuity (which will depend on the annuity option selected at retirement), the payment due for the month in which the annuitant dies will be issued to the named survivor or beneficiary(ies).

Example: An annuitant dies in June (any date). The last payment due to the deceased annuitant is the payment for May, which was issued on June 1.

Can I receive my death benefits in a lump sum?

If the decedent was an annuitant, it depends on whether you are a beneficiary or the
named survivor of a joint and survivor annuity.

  • Beneficiaries are normally eligible for a lump sum payment.
  • Named survivors of a joint and survivor annuity are only eligible for monthly payments that continue for their lifetime.

When will the beneficiary(ies) receive the death benefit payment(s)?

It depends on the complexity of the account, and on how quickly ETF can locate the beneficiaries and how long it takes them to apply. A named survivor of a joint and survivor annuity can sometimes receive payments more quickly.

If there are multiple beneficiaries, we generally wait until all the beneficiaries have applied for the death benefit before payment is issued. However, if one or more beneficiaries delay application (or cannot be located), we will issue payment to the beneficiaries who have applied.

Can I find out who the decedent’s beneficiaries are and/or which annuity option a deceased annuitant chose at retirement?

Due to confidentiality laws, we can only provide that information to the beneficiaries and to the personal representative of the decedent’s estate, if applicable.

Why is the amount of my beneficiary annuity different from the monthly amount that the decedent was receiving?

The amount of your annuity depends on the annuity option that the deceased annuitant selected at retirement. Certain joint and survivor annuities pay only 75% of the decedent’s annuity to the named survivor.

Also, if the deceased annuitant selected an accelerated payment option and the annuitant died before age 62, the temporary portion of the annuity may have ended upon the annuitant’s death. The death benefits payable from accelerated payment annuity options depend in part on when the annuity began.

  • If the accelerated payment annuity began before July 1, 2008, the temporary portion of the annuity ends when the annuitant reaches age 62 or dies, whichever occurs first.
  • If the accelerated payment annuity began on or after July 1, 2008 and the annuitant dies before reaching age 62, the temporary portion of the annuity continues until the annuitant would have reached age 62.

Do I need to send ETF a death certificate?

If a death certificate is necessary, ETF will request a certified copy of the death certificate. By law we can not accept a photocopy or a faxed copy of a death certificate. If you are responsible for handling the decedent’s financial affairs, you may need approximately 10 certified copies of the death certificate. The funeral home can assist you in obtaining the death certificates.

Will taxes be withheld from the death benefits I receive?

  • You can specify which taxes you want withheld from your WRS beneficiary annuity and change your withholding election as often as you wish. If you do not specify any federal withholding or elect no withholding then your withholding will default to “married with three exemptions.” If you do not specify any state withholding, nothing will be withheld.
  • If you receive a lump sum payment, the answer will depend on your relationship to the decedent. You may also be eligible to roll over your lump sum payment to avoid an immediate tax liability, depending on your status as a beneficiary. More detailed information on your options will be included with the death benefit application provided by ETF.

I was a dependent covered under the decedent’s group health insurance. What do I need to do to continue coverage?

As a covered surviving dependent, your health insurance coverage continues automatically. You do not need to submit a new application. If you subsequently decide to cancel your group health insurance coverage, you must send a written notification to ETF. Cancellation will become effective the first of the month after ETF receives your written cancellation.

Do I need to notify anyone else of the decedent’s death?

Depending on the decedent’s situation, you may need to contact some or all of the following:

    • The decedent’s employer if he or she was still working.
    • The Social Security Administration, if the funeral home has not already done so.
    • If you are the personal representative or executor of the estate, the probate court in the county in which the person died.
    • The carrier(s) for any other health and/or life insurance coverage the decedent may have had.
    • If the decedent had a deferred compensation account, the Wisconsin Deferred Compensation (WDC) program. Call the WDC toll-free at 1-877-457-9327.
    • Any investment plans, financial institutions, etc., in which the decedent had assets.
    • If the decedent was a member of a labor organization (WEAC, WREA, WSEU, etc.), you may wish to notify the union.

 

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