Retirement Policy

A will or other estate document generally does not override federal benefit designation forms.

Several federal benefit programs provide for death benefits, but such forms can easily be filed and forgotten. Benefits counselors say that those approaching retirement should be sure to review those forms to be sure that they reflect the individual’s current wishes.

Officials commonly have to remind employees that a will or other estate document generally does not override the designations made on these forms. Thus, the government might have to pay benefits to someone you listed on one of its designation forms years ago rather than someone you currently would wish to receive the benefits. This has been upheld in a number of court cases, most commonly involving life insurance payouts under FEGLI.

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At the least, review your designations of beneficiary after any important life event—the birth or adoption of a child, the death of a family member, a marriage or divorce, or any other significant change in family relationships. You may need to file a new designation to override a prior one.

Some of the key forms are:

SF 2823, Designation of Beneficiary, Federal Employees’ Group Life Insurance (FEGLI);
SF 2808, Designation of Beneficiary-CSRS;
SF 3102, Designation of Beneficiary-FERS;
SF 1152, Designation of Beneficiary-Unpaid Compensation of Deceased Civilian Employee; and
TSP 3, Designation of Beneficiary-TSP.

You can get copies from your personnel office or at www.opm.gov/forms for the first four and at www.tsp.gov/forms/index.html for the fifth.

See also, FERS survivor benefits at ask.FEDweek.com

Under these programs if a designation of beneficiary form is not on file, benefits will be paid according to a standard order of precedence: your spouse; then your child or children in equal shares, with the share of any deceased child distributed among the descendants of that child; then your parents in equal shares or the entire amount to the surviving parent; then the duly appointed executor or administrator of you estate; then your next of kin under the laws of the place you were living at the time of your death.

If that default order is acceptable, you need not make a designation. But as with designations, you should make sure that’s still your intent, especially after life events.

More on TSP spouse and survivor rights at ask.FEDweek.com