Your retirement assets, including your pension and 457 account, are assets that can help your loved ones if something happens to you.

Beneficiary designations for your WRS Pension Plan and WRS 457 Plan are made separately for each plan. A beneficiary can be one person, several people, a trust, or an organization selected to receive eligible plan assets in the event of your death. Life situations such as marriage, the birth or adoption of a child, divorce or the death of a loved one can be cause for reviewing beneficiary designations.

Reporting a Death to WRS

For member’s loved ones dealing with the loss of a member, this time can be busy and stressful. As soon as you are able, please contact WRS to notify us of the member’s death by calling (307) 777-7691. Here is information we will need:

  • For the deceased member:
    • Full name, address and birthdate
    • Date of death
    • RAIN ID or Social Security number
  • Caller or informant’s relationship to the deceased
  • Primary contact, if different than the informant:
    • Name, address and telephone number
    • Relationship to the deceased

For Deceased Member’s Receiving Annuity Payments

WRS will stop the benefit and recover any electronic payments issued to the deceased the month after the date of death. Please do not close the deceased member's bank account until the funds have been recovered.

Death Benefits Process

WRS will determine who the beneficiaries are if any death benefits are payable. The amount of time for a beneficiary to receive a payment depends on the type of benefit, how quickly beneficiaries are located, how many beneficiaries there are, and how long it takes them to submit their benefit application. 

Due to member confidentiality, no benefit information is given to anyone except the beneficiaries or the personal representative of the member’s estate. 

Retirement Benefit

The death benefit amount a beneficiary receives depends on whether the member was employed at the time of death, their WRS account balance and the number of beneficiaries to be paid. If the member was retired and receiving a monthly payment, the death benefit will be based on the annuity option the deceased chose at retirement.

Who else should I notify about the death?

You may contact:

  • The deceased member’s employer, if they were still working.
  • The 457 Deferred Compensation Plan, if the deceased had a deferred compensation account. Call (307) 777-7691 and ask for our Deferred Compensation Department.
  • The Social Security Administration.
  • The deceased member’s health, life, disability coverage, investment plans, financial institutions, etc. active at the time of death.
  • If you are the personal representative or executor of the estate, the probate court in the county in which the person died.

Pension Beneficiary Considerations

Pre-retirees should consider an important distinction between designating a sole beneficiary and multiple beneficiaries for their WRS Pension Plan.

  • Sole eligible primary beneficiaries have the choice to receive a monthly retirement benefit based on the deceased member’s length of service and salary.
  • Multiple primary beneficiaries must receive a lump sum payment. The payment will be made to each of the multi-beneficiaries in equal shares unless otherwise specified in writing.
  • Estate, trust, charity, or other organization named as your beneficiary must receive a lump sum payment.
  • Contingent Beneficiaries will receive a benefit only if there is no surviving primary beneficiary.

Some plans require the member’s spouse to be the primary beneficiary if the member is married. See your pension plan handbook for more details on designating beneficiaries and survivor benefits.

If you do not designate a beneficiary and you pass away pre-retirement, a lump sum payment will be made to your estate if you are a member of the Public Employee, Guard Firefighter, or Judicial Plans. If you are a member of one of our public safety plans - Law Enforcement; Warden, Patrol, DCI; Paid Fire; or Volunteer Fire & EMT and you are married, your death benefits will be paid to your spouse. If you are not married, other provisions will apply, depending on the plan.

When a member retires, the pension payout option selected by the member when beginning to draw a monthly retirement benefit will determine how the account is paid out upon death of the member. Visit the retiree survivor information page...

457 Plan Beneficiary Considerations

Single or Multiple beneficiaries can be designated on a 457 Plan. Each beneficiary may claim funds in the event of the member’s death, independent of other named beneficiaries on the account.

Spousal beneficiaries have the broadest set of distribution options and in most cases have the same distribution options as the spousal decedent.

Non-Spousal beneficiaries are required to establish a payment method not to exceed their life expectancy by end of the year following the calendar year of death. If a payment method is not put in place by that time, all funds must be distributed by the end of the fifth calendar year following the death.

Estate, trust, charity, or other organizations named as your beneficiary must receive a lump sum payment no later than the end of the fifth calendar year following death.

In all cases, the beneficiary, whether spousal or non-spousal, cannot reduce a payment previously established by the decedent.