When Death Benefits Begin and End
A legal beneficiary becomes eligible for death benefits the day after the employee's death. Death benefits are paid until the beneficiary no longer meets the entitlement requirements.
Distribution and Duration of Death Benefits to Eligible Beneficiaries
- A surviving spouse may receive death benefits for the remainder of his or her life unless the spouse remarries. If there are dependent children at the time the employee dies, the death benefits are distributed one half to the surviving spouse, and the remaining half is distributed among the eligible children.
- A surviving spouse who remarries will receive a lump sum payment of death benefits equal to two years (104 weeks) of the benefits. If there are dependent children who still qualify for the death benefit after the expiration of the 104 weeks, the entire benefit will be re-distributed and divided equally among the dependent children if there is more than one child.
- A surviving spouse of a first responder, as defined by Labor Code §504.055, who remarries remains eligible for death benefits for the remainder of his or her life. The lump-sum payment does not apply to a surviving spouse of an employee who was a first responder, and the surviving spouse’s benefits are not redistributed due to remarriage.
- A child is eligible to receive death benefits until he or she reaches 18; or until age 25 if the child is enrolled as a full-time student in an accredited educational institution. If there is more than one eligible child, as one child loses eligibility the benefits are re-distributed equally among the remaining eligible children. Children over 18 will need to show evidence of ongoing enrollment in an accredited educational institution, to remain eligible to receive the benefits.
- A child with physical or mental disability who is a dependent on the date the deceased employee died may receive death benefits until the date the child dies or no longer has the disability. An eligible child with a physical or mental disability will need to provide the insurance carrier documentation of the disability for the remainder of his or her life.
- An adult child who is a dependent of the deceased employee for a reason other than physical or mental disability may remain eligible for death benefits for 364 weeks after the date the deceased employee died. An eligible adult child claiming death benefits will need to provide documentation to the insurance carrier to establish dependent status, and evidence of ongoing eligibility, such as medical records, to remain eligible to receive the benefits.
- Grandchild(ren) may be eligible to receive death benefits if the grandchild was at least 20% dependent on the deceased employee at the time of the employee's death, unless that the grandchild's own parent is eligible for the benefit. An eligible grandchild can receive death benefits until the grandchild reaches age 18. A grandchild who is eligible to receive death benefits and who is not a minor at the time of the employee's death may be eligible to receive no more than 364 weeks of death benefits.
- Other dependent family members, such as a dependent parent, stepparent, sibling, or grandparent of the deceased employee may also qualify for death benefits, but only if there is no eligible surviving spouse, child or grandchild. The duration of these benefits is limited to 364 weeks.
- Non-dependent parents may qualify as eligible beneficiaries if there is no eligible surviving spouse, child or grandchild, and there are no surviving dependents who are parents, siblings or grandparents of the deceased. The duration of these benefits is limited to 104 weeks.
Death Benefits: Example and Timeline
An employee dies because of a work-related injury or occupational illness. The deceased employee was married with two children; one child was 1 year old and the other child was 3 years old.
Day after death benefits begin -
- Half to spouse and half to the parent of dependent 1-year-old and 3-year-old minor children on behalf of the minors.
3 years later -
- Spouse remarries; the insurance carrier pays 104 weeks of half the death benefit in a lump sum payment to the spouse.
- If qualified, the children continue to receive half of benefits for those 104 weeks.
2 years after spouse of the deceased remarried (104 weeks)
- Insurance carrier begins to pay entire death benefit to the minor children.
- When oldest child turns 18, but does not enroll in college, eligibility for death benefits for that child stops and the insurance carrier continues to pay the entire benefit amount to the remaining minor child.