Expert's View

Planning ahead for life events will save you a lot of headaches in the future. In this series of articles I’ll point out some of things you need to consider if you don’t want to get mouse trapped down the line. Today I’ll focus on what you need to do if you are getting married.

Survivor annuity
If you are an employee when you get married, you’ll need to notify your personnel office. There are two good reasons. First, because the law requires you to provide a survivor annuity for your spouse. Second, because that notification will avoid any complications for your spouse if the worst happens and you die.


If you marry after retirement, whether you notify OPM about your marriage is up to you. There is no requirement that you provide a survivor annuity for your spouse. However, if you want to, you’ll have to do it within two years of the marriage. To pay for that benefit, there would be two reductions in your own annuity: the standard reduction to provide the survivor annuity, and a permanent actuarial reduction to pay the survivor benefit deposit.

Note: All the forms referenced below are available at

Health insurance
If you get married and are already enrolled in the self and family option of the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) program, contact your health plan and let them know that you have a new family member.

The rules are different if you were covered under a self only enrollment and want to change to either self plus one (or self and family, if you’ll also be covering a dependent child or children). If you weren’t enrolled in the FEHB program, you can do that now. You can make any of those enrollment changes from 31 days before the marriage to 60 days after by completing Standard Form 2809.
FYI: On marriage, you’ll also have the option of changing from one FEHB plan or option to another.

Life insurance
If you are like most federal employees, you automatically enrolled in the Federal Employees’ Group Life Insurance program (FEGLI) when you were first hired. If you did, you filled out a designation of beneficiary form indicating who you wanted to get the proceeds of that policy if you died. When you get married, you may want to change that designation. Whether you are an employee or a retiree, you can do that by filling out an SF 2823.

Marriage is a qualifying life event that allows you to newly enroll or to increase existing FEGLI coverage. Submit an SF 2817 to your human resources office within 60 days.

A final thought
In addition to the other things you may need to do, you should review your Designation of Beneficiaries (SF 2808 (CSRS) or 3102 (FERS)) and make changes as needed.


Next week I’ll discuss the benefits available if a child enters your life, including when they start and when they end.