(a) When any employee of the agency has completed twenty years of service or longer as an employee of the agency and dies from any cause or causes other than those specified in this article before having been retired by the board and when a retirant has died or dies after having been retired by the board under the provisions of this article, there shall be paid annually in equal monthly installments from the fund to the surviving spouse of the member or retirant, during the lifetime or until remarriage of the surviving spouse, an amount equal to two thirds of the retirement benefit which the deceased retirant was receiving while in status of retirement or would have been entitled to receive to the same effect as if the member had been retired under the provisions of this article immediately prior to the time of his or her death. In no event shall the annual benefit payable be less than $5,000. In addition, the surviving spouse is entitled to receive and there shall be paid to the surviving spouse from the fund the sum of $100 monthly for each dependent child. If the surviving spouse dies or remarries, or if there is no surviving spouse, there shall be paid monthly from the fund to each dependent child or children of the deceased member a sum equal to one fourth of the surviving spouse's entitlement. If there is no surviving spouse or no surviving spouse eligible to receive benefits and no dependent child or children, there shall be paid annually in equal monthly installments from the fund to the dependent parents of the deceased member during their joint lifetimes a sum equal to the amount which a surviving spouse without children would have been entitled to receive: Provided, That when there is one dependent parent surviving, that parent is entitled to receive during his or her lifetime one-half the amount which both parents, if living, would have been entitled to receive: Provided, however, That if there is no surviving spouse, dependent child or dependent parent of the deceased member, the accumulated contributions shall be paid to a named beneficiary or beneficiaries: Provided further, That if there is no surviving spouse, dependent child, dependent parent of the deceased member or any named beneficiary or beneficiaries, then the accumulated contributions shall be paid to the estate of the deceased member.
(b) The retirant may choose a higher percentage of surviving spouse benefits by taking an actuarially determined reduced initial benefit so that the chosen spouse benefit and initial benefit would be actuarially equivalent to the normal spouse benefit and initial benefit. The board shall design these benefit options and provide them as choices for the retirant to select. For the purposes of this subsection, "initial benefit" means the benefit received by the retirant upon retirement.