Have you Designated your TSP Beneficiary?

Who’s your beneficiary? This question is important for all your federal benefits, but especially important for your Thrift Savings Plan.

The beneficiary designation for the TSP is form TSP-3, which is available in the forms and publications section of the TSP website. The most recent revision of the form was in May of 2017, so any forms that have earlier dates are obsolete and will not be accepted by the TSP. If your agency makes forms available (either paper or online), be sure to check the date on the form before you submit it.

If you do not have a TSP-3 on file with the Thrift Savings Plan, the federal standard order of precedence for benefits is followed. The TSP will not follow instructions listed in a will or a trust. The standard order of precedence is:

  1. Surviving spouse;
  2. Child or children in equal shares (per stirpes), (does not include stepchildren unless formally adopted);
  3. Parents;
  4. Executor or administrator of the estate;
  5. Next of kin based on the law of intestacy in the state that was your legal residence on the date of your death.

If you haven’t looked at your TSP-3 for a while, take a look at it now. You want to make sure that it reflects your current wishes.

Here’s what the TSP says about beneficiary designations:

“By law, the TSP must pay your properly designated beneficiary under all circumstances. For example, if you designate your spouse as a beneficiary of your TSP account, that spouse will be entitled to death benefits, even if you are separated or divorced from that spouse and remarried. This is true even if the spouse you designated gave up all rights to your TSP account.”

Check your TSP-3 and make sure you have properly designated your beneficiary (including whether all addresses and contact information is up to date).

In December, the TSP announced the creation of a “TSP-3 wizard”, which is available in the “My Account” page under “Personal Information” via the link titled “Beneficiaries.”

This wizard helps participants and beneficiaries designate or change their beneficiary information if they desire a distribution other than the statutory order of precedence. The wizard populates the TSP-3 with the information that participants enter and helps them to avoid common mistakes that could cause the form to reject. Upon completion, participants should print the form and submit it to the TSP by mail or fax.