The turn of the year is a natural time to do a reassessment of finances. One subject to make sure you know what will happen with your retirement benefits, your life insurance, and your Thrift Savings Plan account upon your death.
If you think you’re covered because you provided for that contingency in your will, you are mistaken. Your will controls none of these things. Unless you have filled out the proper designation of beneficiary forms. in most cases what will control is what’s called the standard order of precedence
The standard order of precedence, in descending order, is:
* to your widow or widower;
* if none of the above, to your child or children, with the share of any deceased child distributed among the descendants of that child;
* if none of the above, to your parents in equal shares or the entire amount to your surviving parent;
* if none of the above, to the executor or administrator of your estate; and
* if none of the above, to your next of kin under the laws of the estate where you were living when you died.
If that outcome is okay with you, you need not do anything. But if that does not match your wishes, you’ll need to designate beneficiaries. For retirement, it’s Standard Form 2808 (CSRS) or 3102 (FERS); for the Federal Employees’ Group Life Insurance it’s Standard Form 2823; for the Thrift Savings Plan it’s TSP-3. All are available on those agencies’ websites.
Having filled out and filed these forms once may not be enough. That’s because circumstances change. For example, you may get married, have a child, adopt a child, get divorced, lose a loved ones, etc. If any of those happens, you may have to resubmit those forms with new designations of beneficiaries. Note: There may be limits on your ability to control where your benefits go. For example, a court order may assign some or all of your benefits to a former spouse.