Expert's View

Many times newly hired single employees designate their parents to receive their life insurance but forget to change it when they get married. Image: Pla2na/

Reg Jones

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 if you die?

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 (FEHB) 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 (FEGLI) coverage, the proceeds will go to those you designated. The same is true of your Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) account. If you haven’t designated any beneficiaries, whatever benefits that can be passed on will be distributed according to a standard order of precedence which is the same in both programs:
• to your widow or widower; or, if none
• to your child or children with the share of any deceased child being distributed among the descendants of that child; or, if none
• to your parents in equal shares or the entire amount to the surviving parent; or, if none
• 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 designated anyone, you’ll want to check to see if you feel the same way you did when you filled out the form.

There have 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. Similarly, you may want to change a designation if you have had children or divorced since you made those designations.

In both cases, you can override the former designation of beneficiary by filing a new form for that program.

Depending on your Social Security coverage, survivor benefits may also be payable, plus a one-time $255 death benefit.

Why So Few are Taking Advantage of TSP Mutual Fund Window

TSP Accounts Shed $100 Billion this Year; Customer Service Woes Continue

Hearing Highlights Partisan Differences over Telework vs. Onsite Work

Federal Retirement COLA Count Hits 9 Percent

Thanks to a Pension, Feds Are Doing Better than Most in Retirement Preparedness

Beneficiary Designations Still Valid Even if Not in New System, Says TSP

TSP Responds to Customer Service Complaints

See also,

House Republicans Revive Retirement Benefit-Cutting Proposals

Installments vs. Annuity: Using Your TSP for Regular Income

The Process of Retiring – Making Late Changes

Retiring from a Federal Job – Getting Started

Retiring from a Federal Job: Make Sure Your Agency Gets it Right

FERS Retirement Guide 2022