Spouse would be default retirement beneficiary

The surviving spouse of a deceased Nebraska retirement system member would be considered the default beneficiary under a bill heard Feb. 12 by the Nebraska Retirement Systems Committee.

Sen. Kate Bolz
Sen. Kate Bolz

Lincoln Sen. Kate Bolz said she introduced LB565 after learning of a woman in her district who struggled to collect her deceased husband’s retirement benefits.

“Her experience illustrated a small gap in our retirement policy,” she said. “If a beneficiary is not designated [for whatever reason] there can be consequences for surviving family members.”

Bolz said the bill would clarify that when a beneficiary is not designated in the state, county or school retirement plans, benefits would go to the surviving spouse. This already is the case in other Nebraska retirement system plans, she said.

Under the bill, if a member of the retirement system is married at the time of his or her death and there is no designated beneficiary on file, the spouse married to the member on the date of the member’s death would be the beneficiary.

If the member is not married on the date of his or her death and there is no surviving designated beneficiary on file, the benefit would be paid to the member’s estate.

Jason Hayes, representing the Nebraska State Education Association, testified in support of the bill. Failing to designate a beneficiary can negatively impact families, he said.

“This can result in delayed benefit payments or higher levels of taxation for the deceased member’s family,” Hayes said.

Also testifying in support was John Antonich, executive director of the Nebraska Association of Public Employees. He said the clarification would benefit all state employees.

“LB565 will not only make things more clear,” he said, “but also will help the stability of the surviving spouse.”

No one testified in opposition to the bill and the committee took no immediate action on it.

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