By Samantha Marcus
TRENTON — Public workers who want to cut their spouses out of inheriting their pensions to maximize benefits would have to get the loved one’s permission under a bill before the state Legislature.
The bill (S642), aimed at members of the Teachers’ Pensions and Annuity Fund, the Public Employees’ Retirement System and the Judicial Retirement System, requires spousal consent if a retiree chooses a pension payout option that terminates benefits upon their death or provides an allowance of less than half to the surviving spouse.
“One member of a married couple should never have the sole authority to surrender the survivor benefits of the other member,” Sen. Shirley Turner (D-Mercer) said in a statement. “This is an issue of particular importance to women who are more financially vulnerable in retirement years and live longer than their husbands.”
The proposed requirement is similar to federal law regulating private plans. The Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism and Historic Preservation Committee passed the bill 4-1 Thursday.
Retiring government workers can choose how they want their allowances structured. The so-called maximum option, or single-life annuity, provides the biggest monthly payout. Beneficiaries are only entitled to receive the amount the worker contributed to the pension system.
Under other distribution options, the beneficiary can receive a lifetime pension of 100 percent or less of the allowance.
According to the bill, current law only requires that the state notify the spouse in writing that the member has chosen the maximum option.
Consent is waived if the spouse cannot be located, according to the bill or under other circumstances determined by the Division of Pensions and Benefits, according to the bill.