When you came to work for the government, you filled out a raft of papers. Among them likely were designations of those you wanted to benefit from your Federal Employees Group Life Insurance (FEGLI) coverage and TSP account if you died. If you are like most employees, you made those designations years ago, even decades.
Often, the name or names you put down then aren’t the one(s) you would pick today. But if you don’t take steps to change that designation, the name(s) you put down (or their heirs) will be the one(s) who will get those benefits, not who you would choose today. For example, if you were single at the time and designated your parent(s) or a sibling and later got married, that original designation would probably not be the way you’d like to have your benefits distributed now.
To change a previous FEGLI designation, you’ll need to fill out a Standard Form 1823. The form for changing a TSP designation is the TSP-3. Both forms are available from your personnel office or online at, respectively, www.opm.gov/forms and www.tsp.gov/forms/index.html.
If you didn’t affirmatively designate beneficiaries—either by choice or inattention–benefits will be distributed according to the standard order of precedence: your spouse; your child or children in equal shares, with the share of any deceased child distributed among the descendants of that child; your parents in equal shares or the entire amount to the surviving parent; the duly appointed executor or administrator of you estate; and, finally, your next of kin under the laws of the place you were living at the time of your death.
If you are happy with that order, you need not make a designation—but just be sure that you indeed did not make a designation in another way, which the programs would have to honor.
Note: If you are divorced, what happens to those benefits may have been settled by a court order.