In the last four articles, I’ve pointed out what you need to do if you want to retire, what roles your agency personnel and payroll offices play in the process, how OPM will handle your application, and when and how you can change your mind about retiring. I want to close this series with a pertinent but uncomfortable question: What benefits would be payable, and to whom, on your death after retirement? Well, it all depends.
If you have designated a beneficiary or beneficiaries, they will receive the benefits they are entitled to under the law. For example if you have a surviving spouse for whom you’ve elected a survivor benefit, the spouse will begin receiving that benefit. If you were enrolled in the Federal Employees Health Benefits program and you elected the self and family or self plus one option, whoever was covered will continue to be entitled to that benefit as long as one of them is receiving a survivor annuity.
If you had Federal Employees’ Group Life Insurance coverage, the proceeds will go to those you designated. The same is true of your Thrift Savings Plan account. Depending on your Social Security coverage, survivor benefits may also be payable, plus a one-time $255 dollar death benefit.
If you haven’t designated any beneficiaries, whatever benefits that can be passed on will be distributed according to the standard order of precedence:
• to your widow or widower; or, if none
• to your child or children with the share of any deceased child being distributed among descendents of that child; or, if none
• to your parents in equal shares or the entire amount to the surviving parent; or
• to the executor or administrator of your estate; or, if none
• to your other next of kin as determined under the laws of the state where you lived.
If you are satisfied to have your death benefits paid in the order listed above, you don’t have to file a designations of beneficiary.
However, if you have filed any designations, you’ll want to check to see if you feel the same way you did when you filled out the forms. There has been too many cases where newly hired, single employees have designated their parents to receive their life insurance and forgot to change it when they got married, when they had children or if they divorced.