WRS News Online

Caution: Some Retirement-Related Choices Cannot Be Changed

Some decisions that members make at retirement can be changed post-retirement, such as tax withholding and beneficiary designations. Some decisions cannot be changed. The following scenarios are good examples of members misunderstanding their annuity options at the time they retired.

Removing a joint survivor from annuity
A joint survivor, also called a named survivor, is the person chosen by a WRS member on their retirement application. When he retired, "Tom" listed his then-girlfriend, "Alice," as his joint survivor on his application. Alice is now Tom's former girlfriend and he wants to remove her from his joint survivor annuity. Only a court order called a Qualified Domestic Relations Order can divide an account or annuity in the case of a divorce or a termination of a domestic partnership.

Tom and Alice were neither married nor in a domestic partnership, so a QDRO cannot be used to in this instance; therefore, it's impossible to remove Alice from the annuity.

Family cannot change annuity option
"Patricia," a WRS member, retired at age 66 and chose a "straight life" annuity option. She incorrectly told her family that in the event of her death they would receive a lump sum payment from the WRS. Patricia died 30 days after receiving her first annuity payment; later, her daughter inquired about the lump sum payment. However, as per her straight life annuity, Patricia's payments ended upon her death. The family asked if they could change Patricia's annuity option to one that would continue after her death; however, that is not possible. Under state law members can change their annuity options if the request is received by ETF within 60 days after the date of the first annuity payment. The law specifies that this option change is an opportunity for the member only.

Our advice: Understand which option you chose when you retired, including what happens to your annuity in the event of your death. Keep all retirement paperwork for future reference, and consider having a friend or a relative review these materials and our website resources with you.