Who gets my survivor annuity?


Q. I’m a FERS retiree. If I die and don’t have anyone who would be entitled to a survivor annuity, what happens to the money that I had deducted from my pay while I was working?

A. Any money that had not already been returned to you in annuity payments would be paid out according to the standard order of precedence found in law:
First, to the beneficiary or beneficiaries designated;
If none, to the widow or widower;
If none, to a child or children, with the share of any deceased child distributed among the descendants of that child;
If none, to the parents in equal shares or the entire amount to the surviving parent;
If none, to the executor or administrator if the estate;
If none, to the next of kin as determined under the laws of the state where the deceased lived.
However, it’s important to point out that under current law, the money you receive in your annuity comes first from the contribution you made to the retirement fund. As a result, if you live longer that 18 to 24 months after you retire, there won’t be anything left to go to anyone listed above.


About Author

Reg Jones was head of retirement and insurance policy at the Office of Personnel Management. Email your retirement-related questions to fedexperts@federaltimes.com.


  1. Richard Robinson on

    Then it should not be taxed at all until you withdraw all that you have paid in. It is normally taxed as if about 20% comes from what you paid in (Already taxed) and the remainder is taxed.

    • You are entitled to a civil service survivor benefit when he dies. However, since this is a site that deals with civil service benefits, I don’t know whether you’d be entitled to any VA benefit.

    • If you were married to him before he retired, and if you did not waive survivor benefits at the time of his retirement, and if his annuity was reduced accordingly, then you will be entitled to a civil service survivor’s annuity after his death.

  2. Does anyone know how it works when ex-spouse is listed as the beneficiary to your survivor benefits and your remarry and want to add your new spouse as a beneficiary so they can continue to have access to FEHB in the future? I’m totally unclear and confused on how or what I should do. Thank you!!

    • You should designate your current spouse as your beneficiary; however, unless your former spouse were to die before you, your current spouse would not be entitled to an annuity nor could she continue her coverage under your FEHB enrollment.

      • Thank you…..in my case our divorce decree states she is entitled to my survivor benefits, so I’m not sure I can change that. That is why I was wondering if I can pay additional amount every month for my new spouse to provide survivor benefits as well. If not, how can make sure my new spouse will be able to continue FEHB after my passing. Again, any guidance would be more than appreciated. THANK YOU!!!

        • Unfortunately, you can’t do anything to qualify your current spouse for a survivor annuity nor can you provide FEHB coverage for her if you die.

  3. Virginia Griswold on

    I am a n annuitant – can I designate my daughter as a person with insurable interest to receive this benefit after I die?

    • Unfortunately, no. Annuitants aren’t eligible to elect an insurable interest annuity. Employees are the only ones who can do that.

  4. I’m a FERS employee looking to retire this December and have an ex-wife and current wife. My Court Order Acceptable for Processing (COAP) states that “Pursuant to Section 8341 (h)(1) of Title 5, USC, the former spouse shall be awarded the maximum possible Former Spouse Survivor Annuity under the FERS.” Does this mean that my ex-wife has to be designated as the sole beneficiary of a survivor annuity or can I designate 25% to my ex and 25% to my current wife?

    • According to the court order, your former wife is entitled to the maximum survivor annuity, which under FERS is 25 percent. Your current wife is entitled to nothing. However, even though she isn’t currently entitled to a survivor benefit, you can still designate her as the recipient of one. Then if your former spouse were to die, your current spouse could receive that benefit.

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