Beneficiary designations are an important element of federal benefits programs. In fact, the ability to provide for one’s family or other designated persons is one of the best features of those benefits, including FEGLI, the TSP and retirement survivor benefits.

However, the election of beneficiaries must be handled with care, in order to assure that the benefits get to the people you intend. In addition, there are certain events in your life, such as marriage, divorce, the addition of family members, or the death of a previously designated beneficiary, that might make you want to change beneficiaries. Thus, these designations should not be in the “file and forget” category but should be reviewed regularly as part of your financial and estate planning.

If you make no designations, benefits go to certain persons by default under what is called a standard order of precedence. This might be acceptable to you, or it might not be—just be sure to understand what happens if you make no designation or if the designation you make becomes outdated.

It is your responsibility to ensure that your designations of beneficiaries remain accurate and reflect your intentions. Benefits will be paid based on a valid designation, regardless of whether that designation still reflects your intentions.

Also, remember that you need to keep your designated beneficiaries’ addresses current in government records. Failure to do so may mean that your beneficiary cannot be located, and therefore benefits will not be paid to that person. The preferred way is to file a new designation of beneficiary whenever a beneficiary’s address changes.

And note that completion of the designation of beneficiary form for one benefit does not designate or change the designation for any other type of benefits. There are separate forms to be used for each.