Beneficiary designations

What is a beneficiary?

A beneficiary is the person or entity who will receive your retirement assets in the event of your death. A beneficiary can generally be an individual, an institution, an organization, a trust, or your estate. Generally, you name a primary beneficiary and a contingent beneficiary. A contingent beneficiary receives the account balance only if the primary beneficiary dies before you.

If you are a participant in several retirement plans, you should designate beneficiaries for each plan.

Detailed information is below, but for general questions regarding beneficiaries, contact the HR Service Center.

How to assign beneficiaries?

Beneficiary designations must be recorded with your designated retirement plan provider. Your will does not designate the beneficiary of your retirement accounts. Beneficiary designations for your retirement accounts are not set up in Workday.

You can designate your beneficiaries either online or using paper forms:


Designate beneficiaries through your registered online account:

Paper forms

Complete and return paper forms directly to your retirement provider (be sure to complete forms for all accounts with the provider):

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Beneficiary designation plan guidelines

You can designate or change your retirement plan beneficiaries at any time throughout the year. You should consider reviewing and/or updating your beneficiary designations after a life event. Note that following a divorce, your ex-spouse, if named, remains your beneficiary until you update your beneficiary designation.

USC plan documents are governed by ERISA (Employee Retirement Income Security Act) and have the following rules for designating a beneficiary:

401(a) or 401(k)

  • If single – no restrictions
  • If married – notarized spousal consent is required if your spouse is not designated as a 100% primary beneficiary


  • If single – no restrictions
  • If married – notarized spousal consent is required if your spouse is not designated as at least 50% primary beneficiary

457(b) or 457(f)

  • No restrictions

Support Staff Retirement Plan

  • Limited beneficiary designations available upon retirement

Note that a notarized spousal waiver for beneficiary purposes does not constitute a spousal waiver for any other retirement plan transaction.

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Information for named beneficiaries

If you are the named beneficiary of the retirement account of a deceased USC retirement plan participant, contact the retirement plan provider for information on how to claim your benefit:

  • Fidelity (800) 343-0860
  • TIAA (800) 732-8353
  • Vanguard (800) 523-1188
  • Prudential (800) 458-6333
  • SunAmerica (800) 999-9205

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