(a) If a member of a retirement system established in a county subject to the provisions of Section 31676.1 would have been entitled to retirement in the event of a non-service-connected disability, but dies as the result of an injury or illness prior to retirement, the surviving spouse of the member shall have the right to elect, by written notice filed with the board, to receive and be paid in lieu of the death benefit provided in Sections 31780 and 31781, an “optional death allowance.”

(b) The allowance shall consist of a monthly payment equal to 60 percent of the monthly retirement allowance to which the deceased member would have been entitled if he or she had retired by reason of non-service-connected disability as of the date of his or her death.

Terms Used In California Government Code 31781.1

  • Notice: includes all papers and orders required to be served in any proceedings before any court, board, or officer, or when required by law to be served independently of such proceeding. See California Government Code 26660

(c) If the surviving spouse elects to receive the “optional death allowance” the payments due for this allowance shall be retroactive to the date of the deceased member’s death, and shall continue throughout the life of the spouse.

(d) If the surviving spouse elects to receive the “optional death allowance,” and thereafter dies leaving an unmarried surviving child or unmarried children of the deceased member under the age of 18 years, the “optional death allowance” shall thereafter be paid to those surviving children collectively until each child dies, marries, or reaches the age of 18 years. The right of any child to the allowance shall cease upon the child’s death or marriage, or upon reaching the age of 18 years, and the entire amount of the allowance shall thereafter be paid collectively to each of the other qualified children.

(e) If the deceased member leaves no surviving spouse but leaves an unmarried child or children under the age of 18 years, the legally appointed guardian of the child or children shall make the election provided in this section on behalf of the surviving child or children that, in his or her judgment, is in the best interests of the surviving child or children. The election made shall be binding and conclusive upon all parties in interest.

(f) The rights and privileges conferred by this section upon the surviving spouse and each child of the deceased member are not dependent upon whether any of these persons have been nominated by the deceased member as the beneficiary of any death benefits and shall supersede the rights and claims of any other beneficiary so nominated.

(g) Notwithstanding any other provisions of this section, the benefits otherwise payable to each child of the member shall be paid to each child through the age of 21 if the child remains unmarried and is regularly enrolled as a full-time student in an accredited school as determined by the board.

(h) For purposes of this section, “child” means a natural or adopted child of the deceased member, or a stepchild living or domiciled with the deceased member at the time of his or her death.

(Amended by Stats. 2003, Ch. 840, Sec. 2. Effective January 1, 2004.)