Advisors Working with Individuals

Claim Benefits

If your client dies before taking retirement income, his or her accumulation will be paid to the contract’s designated beneficiary or beneficiaries. You must notify us of a participant’s death in order to process any beneficiary/survivor benefits.

Notification of participant’s death

You can notify us of a participant’s death via the following methods:

  • Call us at 800 842-2776, Monday through Friday, between 8:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. ET. Please note our busiest time is from 12:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. ET, and our busiest day is Monday.
  • Write to us at TIAA-CREF, 730 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017

We do not accept death notifications by email.

Once notified of a participant’s death, we’ll send the beneficiary an information package, usually within five working days, including a request for an original death certificate. Once the beneficiary has decided among the choices for taking survivor benefits, we’ll send the appropriate application and forms.

Final premium information

If your client participated in an employee retirement plan at the time of death, we will send the employer a final contribution letter requesting the dates and amounts of any contribution from the final month’s salary. It also asks the institution to guarantee payment of contributions we haven’t received them by the time other required information comes in. If the guarantee is provided, we’ll pay the survivor benefits before we receive the final contribution. If not, survivor benefits will be delayed until we receive the funds.

Any contributions paid after your client’s death are limited by the employer’s plan provisions. No extra contributions are permitted, and we must receive all outstanding contributions within three months of the participant’s death.

Survivor payment methods

Your client’s beneficiaries can choose from several payment options:

  • TIAA-CREF savings and investment plan: Allows beneficiary to leave the funds invested. If desired, payments from the plan can be structured to make benefits last by taking only the minimum distribution required by law each year.
  • Lifetime annuities: Available with or without guaranteed periods. The TIAA Traditional Annuity and variable accounts offer fixed-period payments from two to 30 years.
  • Roll funds into an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) or TIAA-CREF Rollover IRA: A beneficiary who is the participant’s spouse may roll over all or part of the taxable benefits to an IRA to qualify, the spouse has to roll the entire benefit to an IRA within sixty days of payment. The distribution is subject to 20 percent federal income tax unless the money is rolled directly into an IRA. Survivor benefits can be taken in a single cash withdrawal.

Tax considerations

Normally, most if not all of an annuity accumulation is fully taxable when the beneficiary receives it. Contributions made by the employer and earnings attributable to them are taxable. Any tax-free portion would be made up of salary deduction (after-tax) contributions and any direct personal contributions the participant made to the TIAA and CREF contracts.

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Call us at 888 842-0318

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