Choosing Beneficiaries

What you should know about beneficiaries

All ASRS members, whether active, in-active or retired, should have a designated beneficiary on file.

A beneficiary is an individual, institution, trustee or estate which receives, or may become eligible to receive, benefits from a member’s retirement plan annuity or account balance. The beneficiary who is or may be entitled to a pension annuity or other certain benefits is also referred to as a “contingent annuitant.”

All ASRS members who have not yet retired have a Survivor Benefit as part of their ASRS benefits. If the member dies prior to becoming eligible for a retirement benefit, the beneficiary will receive a survivor benefit that is two times the member’s account balance, plus accumulated interest.

Under Joint and Survivor options selected at the time of retirement, the surviving beneficiary is entitled to receive the pension benefit for their lifetime upon the death of the retired member.

Designating a beneficiary

There exist some primary rules for designating beneficiaries of your benefits after your death:

  • Spousal Consent Legislation: ASRS members who are married are required to name their spouse as a primary beneficiary with at least 50 percent of the benefit. The law provides for a waiver of this requirement if the ASRS receives a notarized signature from the spouse waiving rights to a portion of the ASRS benefit. When you submit your retirement application, change your beneficiary, or if you pass away and before any survivor benefits are paid, the ASRS will review your account to ensure compliance with the law.

    Spousal Consent Form

  • All members must designate at least one primary beneficiary. More than one primary beneficiary may be designated, but the total of the primary beneficiaries’ shares must equal 100 percent.
  • Naming a secondary beneficiary is optional as well. Should the primary beneficiary, or all beneficiaries, predecease you, any remaining eligible benefits will be paid to the named secondary beneficiary. Again, more than one secondary beneficiary may be named, but shares must equal 100 percent.
  • Members may also designate a trust or organization to receive any benefits upon your death, either as a primary or secondary beneficiary. Under this option, instead of providing a Social Security number (as required for individual beneficiaries) you must provide a Tax Identification number.

Keep your beneficiary(ies) updated!

It is important that you, the member, keep the ASRS informed of any changes related to your beneficiaries, such as address changes, deaths or changes in relationships. Also, divorce automatically nullifies a beneficiary selection of the spouse. A member may re-name the divorced spouse if they choose.

Members may change their beneficiary – primary or secondary – at any time prior to your death. There may be restrictions for retired members who change their beneficiary, which may affect the amount of the annuity. Any change will only become official after the ASRS processes a Beneficiary request.

Statutory order, if no valid beneficiary designated

If a deceased member did not designate a beneficiary or the beneficiary named by a member predeceases the member, the ASRS will follow state statutes, which provide for eligible benefits to be paid to the following
persons, in order of priority:
1) The member’s surviving spouse.
2) The member’s surviving children, including adopted children, in equal shares.
3) The member’s surviving parents, in equal shares.
4) The member’s estate.


How to check and update your beneficiaries

To add or change a beneficiary, or update any beneficiary information, members must log in to their ASRS secure homepage. Look for the Beneficiaries tab in the left navigation menu.


myASRS Login


Frequently Asked Questions

How do you know who my beneficiary is?

The ASRS can only use what information is provided to us. Otherwise, we must perform research by soliciting information from those who report the death to the ASRS as well as third-party services, such as Accurint, that provide information to agencies like ours on relatives as reported over the years. But the best information comes from you directly. Please log in (click the button above) to confirm your current beneficiary(ies).

If I pass away, who is the ASRS going to pay?

That's a great question! The ASRS pays your last designated primary beneficiary(ies) on account, whether submitted online or via paper form, with only one exception explained in the next question/answer. Log in to check who is listed as your beneficiary. A full 25% of our members have never designated anyone. In that case, we go by statutory order.

What if my beneficiary pre-deceases me?

If you elected one of the Joint and Survivor options, and your beneficiary pre-deceases you, you have two important options. 1) You can 'rescind' the elected Joint and Survivor option in favor of the Straight Live Annuity, which would increase your monthly benefit, or 2) You can name another beneficiary under the elected Joint and Survivor option. Important: It is up to the member to notify the ASRS when your beneficiary has passed away and that you would like to rescind your election and 'pop up' to the Straight Life Annuity. Any increase in benefit will not be made retroactive.

Application to Rescind Revert or Change Contingent Annuitant Status

If I don't name a beneficiary, who will the ASRS pay?

Arizona Revised Statutes require the ASRS to locate and pay beneficiaries in a particular order of priority, beginning with the current spouse. The details are provided on this Choosing Beneficiaries page.

What if I had named my spouse, but later divorced?

By law, divorce automatically nullifies any previously named spouse as beneficiary to your ASRS pension benefits. It is important for you to update your beneficiary after your divorce is final. Once divorced, your former spouse is not eligible for survivor benefits UNLESS you re-name the ex-spouse as your primary beneficiary after the divorce is final.

What happens in the event of a divorce?

In the event of a divorce and if the member's account is required to be divided, an ASRS Domestic Relations Order (DRO) should be completed and submitted to the ASRS for review. *The DRO includes all the different methods used to split an account, a specific %, a specific monthly dollar amount, a one time lump sum payment or a commonly used formula, referred to as the Van Loan formula.*

The Van Loan formula is used to determine the percentage that the alternate payee will receive from the ASRS member’s retirement because it isolates the length of a member’s marriage versus the amount of time that they contributed to the ASRS to calculate a percentage of benefits that will be payable to the alternate payee. The ASRS uses an annuity formula (average monthly salary x total years of service x graded multiplier) to determine the amount of a member’s retirement annuity.

The Domestic Relations Order (DRO) template can be found on our website on the Forms page:


A copy of the final, signed DRO must be submitted to the ASRS. It is suggested that members complete the template and submit a draft of this document to the ASRS for review first. We will notify the member, in writing, if the DRO is approved or if changes are required. Once we approve the document, the member can then get it signed by the court and submit a copy of the final, signed DRO to the ASRS.
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