Downstate Illinois Police Pension Benefits: Providing For A Beneficiary With Special Needs

In Illinois, the police officers who serve and protect the citizens of their communities face challenging situations and sometimes life-threatening circumstances every day. These brave men and women deserve a good retirement as a result of their dedication.

Article 3 of the Illinois Pension Code established the Police Pension Fund for police officers who work in municipalities with 5,000 to 500,000 residents. Chicago has a separate Policeman’s Annuity and Benefit Fund and officers in smaller towns with fewer than 5,000 inhabitants qualify for benefits under the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund. This article only discusses the Police Pension Fund.

How Police Pension Benefits are Determined

When a police officer reaches at least 50 years old, with at least 20 years of service, he or she qualifies for a pension upon retirement equal to 50% of the salary associated with the rank last held for the prior year or on the last day of service on the police force, whichever is greatest. The pension amount is increased for each year of service over 20 years up to a maximum of 75% of the former monthly salary.

Upon the death of an officer who is receiving pension benefits, or one who is eligible for a pension, his or her surviving spouse is entitled to the pension that the officer earned. Upon the spouse’s death, or possibly on remarriage, the officer’s unmarried children under the age of 18, or children who are dependent because of a physical or mental disability are then entitled to equal shares of the pension benefits.

How Pension Benefits Should be Paid to A Person With Special Needs

Many individuals with special needs are eligible for certain government benefits based upon their specific circumstances, their personal assets and income, and their family’s financial situation. Any payments made directly to a person with a disability, however well-intentioned they may be, could jeopardize the recipient’s ability to qualify for needs-based financial assistance.

Establishing a Special Needs Trust is the best way to protect the future needs of your loved one with special needs. For more details about Special Needs Trusts, take a look at our article, “Special Needs Trusts and How To Fund Them.” In the context of Police Pension benefits, suffice it to say that payments to a Special Needs Trust is better than simply naming your beneficiary with special needs individually.

Interplay Between the Police Pension Fund and a Special Needs Trust

Section 3-108.3 of the Police Pension Fund Act defines allowable pension beneficiaries and includes retired and disabled pensioners, their surviving spouses, children under the age of 18, children with disabilities, and dependent parents. This section also specifically states:

“If a special needs trust as described in Section 1396p(d)(4) of Title 42 of the United States Code… has been established for a disabled adult child, then the special needs trust may stand in lieu of the disabled adult child as a beneficiary for the purposes of this Article.” (40 ILCS 5/3-108.3)

The Act goes on to clarify that any benefit designated for a dependent beneficiary may be paid to a trust on behalf of that person if the beneficiary is living at the time the benefit would be paid to the trust.

By establishing a Special Needs Trust on behalf of your loved one with special needs, and then naming that trust as beneficiary on your Police Pension account, you can provide for your loved one while not compromising his or her ability to receive all possible sources of assistance due to your generosity.

Trusts and Pensions are Complicated Creatures

As a police officer, you work hard and risk your life every time you go to work. You deserve a solid income and good retirement benefits. You also deserve peace of mind knowing that you can provide for your family after you’re gone. If you have any questions about Special Needs Trusts and how to maximize your Police Pension benefits for a beneficiary with special needs, we’re here to help.

Rubin Law is the only law firm in Illinois exclusively limited to providing compassionate special needs legal and future planning to guide our fellow Illinois families of children and adults with intellectual disabilities, developmental disabilities, or mental illness down the road to peace of mind. For more information, email us at or call 866-TO-RUBIN.