Judges of Probate Court in good standing are members of the retirement system; however, for judges first elected for a term beginning on or after January 5, 2011 membership is limited to those judges who work in such capacity for at least one thousand (1,000) hours per year.
Any person employed by a Probate Court for more than four hundred and thirty (430) hours per year, or a person who served for more than 430 hours per year performing under any contract of employment with any Probate Court are members of the retirement system; however, for persons first employed or first serving on or after January 1, 2011, the hourly requirement is one thousand (1,000) hours per year.
You and the Probate Court Administration Fund share the cost of your retirement benefits.
For both Judges and employees, the amount of your contributions to the retirement fund depends on whether or not your employment within the Probate Court is covered by Social Security. If your employment is not covered by Social Security, your contributions must equal three and three quarters percent (3¾ %) of your gross pay. If your employment is covered by Social Security, your contributions equal one percent (1%) of that part of your gross pay on which Social Security taxes are withheld and three and three quarters percent (3¾ %) of your gross pay above the Social Security taxable wage base.
Contributions are to be deducted from judges’ and employees’ compensation by PCA and forwarded to the Retirement Services Division on a bi-weekly basis..
Your years of service determine your eligibility for benefits and are used in the calculation of the amount of your retirement benefit.
Your “Credited Service” is the number of years, months, and days from the date you became a member of the retirement system, up to, and including, the date of your termination. This is the time you are receiving pay from any Probate Court from which the appropriate retirement contributions are deducted and forwarded to the Retirement Services Division for deposit to the Fund.
Your “Credited Service” may also include a period of not more than three (3) years of purchased service as a member of the General Assembly and/or Military Service.
Purchases of Service:
No more than a maximum, combined total of three years of Military and General Assembly service can be used towards your “credited service”.
Military: You must apply for this service within one year of becoming a member of the retirement system.
Military service cannot be used to receive a pension from any source other than the Probate Judges & Employees Retirement System.
Military service must have been rendered at a time of war or national emergency.
You must pay the full actuarial cost of the service within one year following your date of application.
General Assembly: You must apply for this service within one year of becoming a member of the retirement system.
General Assembly service cannot be used to receive a pension from any source other than the Probate Judges & Employees Retirement System.
You must pay the full actuarial cost of the service within one year following your date of application.
Restoration of Refund: Any judge or employee who has received a refund after termination, as described herein under Refunds of Retirement Contributions, and is subsequently reemployed within the Probate Court System, will not receive credit for their prior service unless the refunded amount of contributions is repaid with interest. The amount of interest due will be calculated at a rate determined by the Retirement Commission.
Types of Retirement:
Vesting: Judges and employees are fully vested after completing 10 years of credited service.
Normal Retirement: Judges and employees are eligible to retire with a normal retirement benefit as of the first of any month on or after attaining age 62 with 10 years of credited service.
Age 70 Retirement for Judges: A judge must retire and begin receiving retirement benefits on the first day of any month on or immediately following their 70th birthday, provided the judge has served at least one full term.
Age 70 Retirement for Employees: An employee may retire and begin receiving retirement benefits on the first day of any month on or immediately following their 70th birthday, without consideration of their years of service. With permission of the judge, an employee may work beyond age 70, but will not make further retirement contributions or accrue additional credited service and will not receive any pension payments while still employed.
Early Retirement: You may retire after completing ten (10) years of credited service at any age. However, your retirement benefits will be reduced at a rate determined by the Retirement Commission to be the actuarial equivalent of the retirement allowance that would have been paid, had you begun receiving retirement benefits at age sixty-two (62), except if you separate from service after age 60 the reduction is one-quarter of one percent for each month your retirement precedes your attainment of age 62.
Disability Retirement: Any judge or employee who has completed at least ten (10) years of credited service may be eligible for a disability benefit if he or she becomes permanently and totally disabled from engaging is any gainful employment within the Probate Court System. In order to obtain a disability retirement benefit, you must apply in writing to the Retirement Commission within one year after incurring the disability.
Pre-retirement Death Benefit: If a member, who has been married for at least one year, dies before retirement but after completion of the normal age and service requirements, a retirement allowance shall be payable to the surviving spouse commencing at the date of death, and ending upon the death of the spouse.
The amount payable will be the average of:
- 50% of the retirement allowance payable to the member for a “Straight Life Annuity” benefit and
- 50% of the retirement allowance payable to the member for a “50% Husband and Wife” benefit.
Retirement Benefit Calculations
Your normal retirement benefit is calculated using one of two formulas depending on whether you are paying into social security or not paying into social security. The formulas use your credited service and your average final compensation (AFC).
Employees: to determine your AFC, add your three highest paid years of credited service and divide the total by three. For the purpose of determining your AFC, any 12 consecutive month period equals one year. For example, May 1st through the following April 30th would equal one year.
Judges: to determine your AFC, add your three highest paid calendar years, January 1st through December 31st, of credited service and divide the total by three.
Your credited service for retirement calculation purposes includes fractions of a year based upon completed months of service.
For Members covered by Social Security the formula is:
$4,800.00 X one percent (.01) X years of credited service
(AFC – $4,800.00) X two percent (.02) X years of credited service
Assuming you are covered by social security, retire at age 62 with 20 years of credited service, and your AFC equals $25,000.
$4,800.00 X .01 X 20 = $960.00
$20,200.00 ($25,000.00 – $4,800.00) X .02 X 20 = $8,080.00
Your annual straight life annuity benefit is $ 9,040.00, payable at $753.33 a month.
For Members not covered by Social Security the formula is:
AFC X two percent (.02) X years of credited service
Assuming you are not covered by social security, retire at age 62 with 20 years of credited service, and your AFC equals $25,000.
$25,000.00 X .02 X 20 = $10,000.00
Your annual straight life annuity benefit is $10,000.00, payable at $833.33 a month.
If you retire under the Early Retirement provision your benefit will be calculated using the same formula; however, your annual straight life annuity benefit will be reduced to reflect your receipt of benefits prior to the normal retirement age of 62. See the Early Retirement information provided under Types of Retirement in this summary.
If you apply to retire and are approved under the Disability Retirement provision your annual straight life annuity benefit will be calculated using the same formula without consideration of your age at retirement.
Benefit Payment Options
You may choose to receive your retirement income in the form best suited to your personal needs. If you elect to have your retirement benefits paid to someone else when you die, the recipient will be your contingent annuitant, commonly referred to as your “optionee”. The optional forms of payment available are:
Option D – Straight Life Annuity.
This option provides you with the highest monthly benefit and is payable for your lifetime. However, all payments stop at your death.
Option A – 50% Husband and Wife.
This option first provides a reduced monthly benefit to you for life. Then 50% of that benefit will continue after your death for the lifetime of your surviving spouse.
Option B – 50% or 100% Contingent Annuitant.
This option will continue payments after your death to the contingent annuitant you choose. The contingent annuitant can be any person, including your spouse. The option provides a reduced monthly benefit to you for life. After your death, a percentage of that benefit, either 50% or 100%, whichever you choose, will continue for the lifetime of your contingent annuitant.
Option C – 10 Year or 20 Year Period Certain.
This option provides reduced monthly payments to you for your lifetime with payments guaranteed from retirement date for 10 or 20 years, whichever you choose. If you should die within 10 years (120 payments) or 20 years (240 payments) from your date of retirement, the remaining payments, in accordance with your selection, will be made to your contingent annuitant(s). This is the only option that allows you to name more than one contingent annuitant, each of whom would share each remaining monthly benefit equally.
If you elect a benefit option that will continue an income to a surviving contingent annuitant, the benefit amount you receive will depend on your age and, with the exception of Option C, the age of your contingent annuitant. In the case of Option C, your closest age is the determining factor. The amount is less than you would receive if benefits were paid to you alone under the straight life annuity option.
Important Information to Consider When Making Your Option Election:
If you are married prior to the commencement of your retirement benefits, written spousal consent will be required if you do not provide a lifetime guarantee (50% or 100% option) for that spouse.
If you are married at the time of your retirement, you automatically retire with a 50% Spousal Option, unless you designate otherwise. An unmarried member who does not designate a retirement option will automatically retire with a Straight Life Annuity.
Regardless of your option choice or marital status you must submit proof and/or attest to your marital status prior to your effective date of retirement. Failure to submit the required documentation prior to the effective date of retirement may result in a delay of retirement income payments.
If you elect Option D, at the time of your death not only do all pension payments stop, but health insurance for your surviving spouse covered through the retirement system also ends. Your surviving spouse would be offered the choice of assuming the full (100%) cost of the group health insurance for a limited period only (currently 36 months). Then all health insurance benefits available through the retirement system would cease. Reimbursement for your surviving spouse’ s Medicare Part B premium will also end at your death.
If you elect Option A, B or C, the state sponsored health coverage and the payment of any reimbursement of the Medicare Part B premium will be extended, at the time of your death, to your surviving spouse for as long as the monthly benefit continues.
Minimum Retirement Benefit
If you retire with ten (10) or more years of credited service, the retirement system provides a minimum annual benefit of $360.
Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA)
The COLA is based upon the increase or decrease in the Consumer Price Index for the most recent fiscal year as compiled by the Federal Government, and is applied annually on July 1st for each member collecting a retirement benefit as of the previous July 1st. The COLA is limited to three percent (3%), and no COLA will be applied if there is no increase in the Consumer Price Index or the increase is less than one percent (1%).
Health Insurance Benefits
Any member of the Probate Judges and Employees Retirement System, who is retired and receiving benefits from such system, may elect to participate in the state-sponsored health insurance program. The spouse of such member may also participate in the health insurance program, however; upon the death of the member, the surviving spouse must be receiving benefits from the system in order to continue health insurance coverage.
For retiring members not covered by Medicare Parts A and B: The State will pay 100% of the health insurance premiums for the member and their spouse. All rates, terms and conditions are subject to change effective July 1st of each calendar year.
For retiring members covered by Medicare Parts A and B: Medicare is the primary insurance, and any plan chosen through the retirement system will be secondary. The State will also reimburse you in your monthly benefit for each normal Part B premium. All rates, terms and conditions are subject to change effective July 1st of each calendar year.
The State will cover 20% of the premium for dental insurance. The retiring member is responsible for the remaining 80%, which is deducted from their monthly benefit.
Refunds of Retirement Contributions
After termination: Any member, who leaves the probate court before becoming eligible for retirement benefits may, upon request, withdraw the total of their contributions, plus interest earned in lieu of any other benefits from the retirement system. If no such request is made within ten years after termination, all contributions and interest will revert back to the fund.
Any member who has received a refund after termination, as detailed above, and is subsequently reemployed within the Probate Court System, will not receive credit for their prior service unless the refunded amount of contributions and earned interest is repaid with interest.
After death of member: A refund of retirement contributions only will be made to a member’ s beneficiary (or beneficiaries) in the following cases:
Upon the death of a member who did not complete the age and service requirements for a normal retirement benefit.
Upon the death of a retired member, less any retirement allowance paid.
Upon the death of a surviving spouse receiving a lifetime income, less any retirement allowance paid.
Re-employment after Retirement
A retired member may work up to 630 hours per calendar year without jeopardizing their retirement benefit and retiree medical and dental insurance coverage. The 630 hours is based upon normal hours worked as an active employee.
A Final Note:
This summarizes the more important provisions of the Probate Judges & Employees Retirement System. It is not intended to give you complete details on all retirement system conditions. If there is any conflict in wording between the law and this outline, the official wording of the law will govern.