Designation of Beneficiary: When is the last time you looked at yours?

Main Content

A Designation of Beneficiary is a legal document outlining how benefits will be paid in the event of your death. Benefits for life insurance, retirement, Thrift Savings Plan, and unpaid compensation are automatically distributed in the following order of precedence:

  • First, to your widow or widower;
  • Second, to your child or children, with the share of any deceased child distributed among descendants of that child;
  • Third, if none of the above, to your parents in equal shares or the entire amount to your surviving parent;
  • Fourth, if none of the above, to the executor or administrator of your estate;
  • Fifth, if none of the above, to your other next of kin as determined under the laws of the State where you lived.

An exception to the order of precedence is for Federal Employees’ Group Life Insurance (FEGLI). If you assigned ownership of your FEGLI, benefits will be paid:

  • First, to the beneficiaries designated by your assignees, if any;
  • Second, if there is no beneficiary, to your assignees.

If you did not assign FEGLI ownership and there is a valid court order on file, benefits will be paid according to that court order.

You are not required to complete a Designation of Beneficiary form if you want your benefits distributed according to the order of precedence. If you want benefits paid to someone else or in a different order, you must designate a beneficiary.

If you complete a Designation of Beneficiary form, you are responsible for ensuring that it remains accurate. Benefits will be paid based on a valid designation, regardless of whether that designation still reflects your intentions. You should review your beneficiary designation whenever you have a significant change in your life, such as a marriage, divorce, or death. A divorce does not invalidate a designation that names your former spouse as beneficiary; you must complete a new designation form. You should file a new form whenever there is a change in a beneficiary's address or name.

If you have questions, please notify your designated Benefits Specialist or email FEMA-HC-BENEFITS@FEMA.DHS.GOV.

Last Updated: 
09/12/2013 - 12:22