What You Should Know About the New York Survivor’s Benefit Program

The Mississippi Court of Appeals recently decided that a man convicted of DUI manslaughter that led to the death of his wife can collect survivor benefits from the state. The late woman had designated her husband as a 40% beneficiary while the deceased woman’s sister was a 60% beneficiary. While Mississippi law permits spouses in the husband’s situation to still receive benefits, some states have prevented this type of result by altering statutory language. The husband previously pleaded and was sentenced to 25 years in prison with 10 years suspended and 15 to serve. The man later received a separate two-year sentence for possession of contraband. 


While the Mississippi Court’s decision might seem strange, it emphasizes the importance of understanding the basics about the New York Survivor’s Benefit Program, which will be briefly reviewed in this article.


The Role of the New York Survivor’s Benefits Program


The New York Survivor’s Benefit Program is a protection plan that provides minimum death benefits to the survivors of New York State deceased or retired workers. A beneficiary can receive a benefit of $3,000 if a person left service with New York State either on or after April 1, 1970. A beneficiary can receive $2,000 if a person left state service between October 1, 1966, and March 31, 1970. 


Eligibility Requirements for the Program


There are not any requirements to enroll in the Survivor’s Benefit Program. Instead, a person is automatically covered for this benefit if the individual has at least ten years of full-time service for New York state within the last 15 years immediately preceding their departure from the position. A person must also meet one of the following requirements at the time that the individual leaves the public payroll:


  • The individual must retire directly from state service and be a member of the New York State and Local Retirement System or the New York State Teachers’ Retirement System
  • The individual must retire from service for New York state when the individual is at least 55 years of age, participate in the State University Optional Retirement Program and begin collecting pension within 90 days of their last day on payroll
  • The individual must leave state service at the age of 62 or older 


The exact amount that a beneficiary will receive is often less than one of the individual’s annual salary. The maximum amount payable to beneficiaries is $10,000, while the minimum amount is $2,000. 


New York’s Slayer Law


In light of these issues, it is important to consider New York’s “slayer law”. As articulated in the New York Court of Appeals case of Riggs v. Palmer, this law states that no individual is permitted to profit by their fraud or to take advantage of their wrong to acquire property by their crime. 


This law is ordinarily applied in cases where one person murders another individual through a criminal or reckless act. As a result, if the Mississippi case was heard by a New York court, the spouse convicted of the DUI would likely be unable to receive survivor benefits. 


Contact with an Experienced Estate Planning Lawyer


Spousal benefits are just one of the complex issues related to estate planning. One of the best ways to make these matters much more manageable is to obtain the assistance of an experienced attorney. 

Contact Ettinger Estate Planning today to schedule a free initial consultation.

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