Beneficiary Rules

COVID-19: Contacting the Benefits Department

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Office of Human Resources is working remotely until further notice. During this time, Craig Hall is not open to the public; walk-ins will not be accepted and forms cannot be dropped off in-person or faxed. During this time, we recommend submitting all requests and inquiries online in lieu of sending physical mail or leaving phone messages.

If you have a Benefits-related inquiry, including the submission of forms or documentation, the quickest way to receive assistance is to submit an online request.

Important Plan Rules Based On Spousal Rights 

  • If you do not designate a beneficiary, your vested interests in the University of Pittsburgh 401(a) and 403(b) Retirement Plans could go to an unintended survivor.
    (The beneficiary designation covers the disposition of the vested portion of your account balances payable as a survivor benefit, regardless of whether or not a you have started to make withdrawal distributions. If upon retirement, or at a later time, an account balance is converted to an annuity income option, there is a separate requirement at that time to restate or designate a beneficiary.)
  • If you have designated a beneficiary, it is important to check periodically to make sure your beneficiary designations are current. Personal life event changes you experience typically require a review and update to your designated beneficiaries. Personal life events include (but are not limited to) marriage, divorce, death, or birth of a child.
  • You may make a beneficiary designation at any time. However, the goal of the cooperative initiative at this time is to encourage you to immediately begin a review and establish your own on-going personal schedule for periodic review.
  • Beneficiary designations are made directly with TIAA. TIAA make available information and resources for you to verify your existing beneficiary designation. The resources include your quarterly investment statements, secure access to websites and online systems, and telephone counseling service centers.

Defined Contribution Retirement Plan Rules and Processes For Beneficiary Designations

Payment of Survivor Benefit

  • If you pass away, your vested interest will be paid to your beneficiary (or your estate if no beneficiary designation is on file). If you are married at the time of your death (regardless of whether you are married now), your vested interest will be paid automatically to your spouse, regardless of any beneficiary designation which you have made, unless your spouse has specifically waived his/her right to be the beneficiary.
  • If you want to name your children or someone other than a spouse as beneficiary, make certain that you place on record a beneficiary designation with spousal consent. Prenuptial agreements, separation agreements, and divorce settlements may not govern payments (with the possible exception of certain domestic relations orders issued by a court).

Beneficiary Designations

Beneficiary designations are made directly with TIAA, either online through the secure site or by hard copy printed from such sites.

Within TIAA

You must designate the beneficiary for the 401(a) plan and designate separately for the 403(b) plan (either the same as designated for 401(a) or designated differently). The designation will apply unilaterally to each account under 401(a) and to each account under 403(b), unless you specifically designate differently.