After someone in your family has died, you are likely battling two separate feelings: Grief and worry. You’re overwhelmed by the fact that your loved one has been taken away, but when that person was also the sole provider in the family, your grief can quickly spiral into anxiety. How can you be expected to pay the bills when you’re still not able to say goodbye?

In many cases, employers will set up trust funds and pension plans to provide for a deceased employee’s family. This is no different if you are a police officer or fireman in the State of New Jersey, as both monthly survivors’ pensions and group life insurance benefits are available to survivors through the Police and Firemen’s Retirement System (PFRS).

Who Can Collect Benefits After the Death of a NJ Police Officer?

The following people are eligible to receive a deceased officer’s benefits in the form of a monthly pension:

  • Spouse – The officer’s husband or wife may collect benefits if you were legally married on the date of your spouse’s death, as long as you have not remarried or entered into a civil union.
  • Civil Union Partner / Domestic Partner – A same-sex partner in a legal civil union or domestic partnership may collect benefits until death, as long as he does not enter into a new civil union or marry.
  • Children – Any unmarried children under the age of 18 are eligible for benefits. In certain circumstances, a child over 18 who is mentally or physically disabled at the time of the officer’s death may also be eligible.
  • Parents – A parent may be eligible for a percentage of a pension if he or she was receiving financial support from the officer in the 12 months preceding his death. However, the parent will no longer be eligible if he or she remarries.

How Much Could We Receive in Pension Benefits?

Generally speaking, beneficiaries may receive a pension benefit equal to 50 percent of the officer’s Final Compensation. If the officer enrolled in benefits on or before May 21, 2010, Final Compensation is based on the salary in the last 12 months of creditable service before death. For members enrolled after May 21, 2010, Final Compensation is based on the officer’s average salary for any three fiscal years before death.

How Much Could We Receive in Group Life Insurance?

PFRS also provides group life insurance benefits based on the salary and pension contributions of the officer’s last 12 months of service. The amount will depend on whether the officer was:

  • Active – If the officer dies in active service (before retirement), his beneficiary is eligible for a group life insurance benefit equal to 3 ½ times your compensation.
  • Retired – If the officer dies after retirement, his beneficiary is eligible for a group life insurance benefit equal to ½ of your Compensation. If the officer retired because of a disability, families may be eligible to receive 3 ½ times the officer’s compensation if the officer passed away before age 55.

Families should be aware that they can still receive benefits whether their loved one was an active or retired member of the force. If your relative was killed on duty, you may be able to receive additional compensation. Click the link on this page to find out how to get maximum loss if income compensation in our free report, What the Injured Worker Needs to Know: Your Workers’ Comp Guide.

Manfred Ricciardelli
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Morristown Workers' Compensation Lawyer