Completing beneficiary forms available under several federal benefits programs is a personal choice; it is not required. If you choose not to make designations, your death benefits will be distributed in an order of precedence (unless overridden by a court order).
The order of precedence is: (1) the widow or widower; (2) if none, the child or children in equal shares; (3) if none, the parents in equal shares; (4) if none, the executor or administrator of the estate; (5) if none, the next of kin under the laws of the state in which the decedent was domiciled at date of death.
If you complete beneficiary forms, it is your responsibility to make sure your elections stay current. For example, a change in marital status or the birth of a child does not automatically change your beneficiary; you must file a new designation each time to take such changes into account.
There have been many legal cases, including one that reached the U.S. Supreme Court in recent years, holding that FEGLI life insurance benefits for example that were designated to go to a now-former spouse still must go to that person rather than to the spouse at the time of death. That is one reason that many people prefer not to make a designation but rather allow the order of precedence to govern.
Key beneficiary forms include the SF 2808 (Designation of Beneficiary, Civil Service Retirement System); SF 3102 (Designation of Beneficiary, Federal Employees Retirement System); SF 1152 (Designation of Beneficiary Unpaid Compensation of Deceased Civilian Employee); SF 2823 (Designation of Beneficiary, Federal Employees’ Group Life Insurance); and Form TSP-3 (Designation of Beneficiary, Thrift Savings Plan).
Submit the SF 1152, SF 2823, and the SF 3102 to your personnel office, who will certify and forward to our office. The SF 2808, if applicable, should be sent directly to OPM at the address on the reverse side of the form. The Form TSP-3 should be sent to the TSP at the address on the form.
You should make copies of your beneficiary forms prior to submitting them to the appropriate offices and review them periodically to ensure they reflect your current desires.