(a) Upon the death of a member who has attained the minimum age for voluntary service retirement applicable to the member in his or her last employment preceding death, and who is eligible to retire and in circumstances in which the basic death benefit is payable other than solely that of membership in a county retirement system, or a retirement system maintained by the university, a monthly allowance shall be payable as follows:
(1) To the member's surviving spouse as long as the spouse lives.
(2) To the children under the age of 18 years collectively if there is no surviving spouse or if the surviving spouse dies before all children of the deceased member attain the age of 18 years, until every child dies or attains the age of 18 years. No child shall receive any allowance after marrying or attaining the age of 18 years.
(b) The monthly allowance under this section shall be equal to one-half of, and derived from the same source as, the unmodified retirement allowance the member would have been entitled to receive if he or she had retired for service on the date of death. If, however, the member made a specific beneficiary designation under Section 21490, the monthly allowance shall be equal to one-half of that portion of the member's unmodified retirement allowance that would have been derived from the nonmember spouse's community property interest in the member's contributions and service credit.
(c) If a member does not have a surviving spouse nor any children under the age of 18 years at the time of death, no allowance shall be payable under this section.
(d) No allowance shall be payable under this section if a special death benefit is payable.
(e) (1) The allowance provided by this section shall be paid in lieu of the basic death benefit but a surviving spouse qualifying for the allowance may elect, before the first payment on account of it, to receive the basic death benefit in lieu of the allowance.
(2) The allowance provided by this section shall be paid in lieu of the basic death benefit but the guardian of the minor child or children qualifying for the allowance may elect, before the first payment on account of it, to receive the basic death benefit in lieu of the allowance. If an election of the basic death benefit is made, the basic death benefit shall be paid to all the member's surviving children, regardless of age or marital status, in equal shares.
(f) If the total of the payments made pursuant to this section are less than the basic death benefit that was otherwise payable on account of the member's death, the amount of the basic death benefit less any payments made pursuant to this section shall be paid in a lump sum to the surviving children of the member, share and share alike, or if there are no children, to the estate of the person last entitled to the allowance.
(g) The board shall compute the amount by which benefits paid pursuant to this section exceed the benefits that would otherwise be payable and shall charge any excess against the contributions of the state so that there shall be no increase in contributions of members by reason of benefits paid pursuant to this section.
(h) As used in this section, "a surviving spouse" means a spouse who was either married to the member for at least one year prior to the member's death, or was married to the member prior to the occurrence of the injury or the onset of the illness that resulted in death, and "child" includes a posthumously born child of the member.
(i) On and after April 1, 1972, this section shall apply to all contracting agencies and to the employees of those agencies with respect to deaths occurring after April 1, 1972, whether or not the agencies have previously elected to be subject to this section.
(Amended by Stats 2000, Ch. 1002, Sec. 8)