Helping Federal Employees and Annuitants Understand Their Benefits


Federal Employee Survivor Benefits

Survivor's Guide

Retirement Assistance


Updated 12/19/2019


Federal Employee's CSRS & FERS Survivor's Benefits

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Survivors must report deaths to OPM to continue their annuity after a retiree passes on or to stop the annuity for the surviving spouse when he or she dies.  You must also process survivor benefit changes, cash in insurance policies, and change asset registrations . This section is designed to help federal employee survivors at this difficult time and our Estate Planning section can make this task easier for all concerned. Proper planning can dramatically reduce your estate costs through easy to use probate avoidance techniques.

You will find the checklist on this page useful. Download the Word file and tailor the checklist to your unique needs. I used the book Plan Your Estate to guide me through this process and I highly recommend this title to all who are either planning to retire or have retired from federal service. The Executors Guide assists the survivor to secure their benefits and to settle the estate timely.

Survivor's Guide Menu


Survivor's Checklist


FREE Downloadable Microsoft Word File

Prepared by: __________________________
Date Prepared: _______________ 

This checklist will help survivors focus on key areas that need to be addressed and to ensure important forms are submitted so that a spouse’s annuity will continue and assets are properly transferred. 

Survivors, executors and/or co-executors should review “ Plan Your Estate and The Executors Guide.” These books are located _________________________________________ (Specify location). They explain probate, wills and trusts, and other areas that the Executors will need. Our wills are located _________________________________________. (Specify location)

  • Read letter of Instruction (See Sample)
  • Review a copy of The Executors Guide (This book will help you settle a loved one's estate and trust. Written in plain-English it will help you read a will, transfer property, handle probate, work with relatives, and make sense of it all.) HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
  • Review Survivor’s Report (See Sample)
  • Review Financial reports (See Estate Planning Section)

Reporting an annuitant or survivor's death:

  • Complete the SF 2800 form for CSRS or the SF 3104 for FERS annuitants. (You can fill out and print these forms on your computer) You can also report a death through OPM online or by phone online at 1-888-767-6738. It is difficult getting through to OPM by phone due to the large number of annuitants that they service.

NOTE: Attach a copy of the federal employee’s death certificate and a copy of the certificate of the marriage to the widow or widower. Send the completed application to:

Office of Personnel Management
Retirement Operations Center
ATTENTION: Death Claims Section
Post Office Box 45
Boyers, Pennsylvania 16017-0045

A widow or widower who is claiming benefits for himself or herself and on behalf of children should file one application.

This form will continue your spouses’ annuity. Your spouse will receive 55% of what your total annuity was unless you and spouse agreed to a reduced survivor’s annuity at the time you retired. Your spouses’ medical coverage will continue. Complete instructions are included on the web site mentioned above. You will need to do the following:

  • Attach a copy of your marriage certificate (Make sure you have a copy for your spouse to file with this document)
  • Attach a copy of the retirees DD form 214 (For military service only)
  • Attach a CERTIFIED copy of the death certificate
  • Mail to address listed on the SF-2800 form
  • Send US Mail Certified with return receipt

NOTE: If you don’t hear back from OPM within 2 weeks call 888-767-6738 to follow-up. You can email them at

Call the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) at 1-888-767-6738 if you have any questions or to have them send you out copies of the forms if you aren't able to complete them online. You can also submit a report of death on OPM’s web site at

You must contact OPM either by phone at 1-888-767-6738 or you can report the death online.

  • Check to confirm that your Government Health Care Coverage was changed from “Family” to “Self.” This is done automatically by OPM, however, sometimes it falls through the cracks. This will save the surviving spouse several thousand dollars a year in health care premiums. OPM should send out the proper forms when you report a retiree's death to them. If you don't receive the proper forms, call OPM immediately and request the forms to make this change.
  • Review Contact Lists – (Attach a list of critical contact information)
    • Includes Login IDs and Passwords lists for all online program and account information.
    • A print out of your address books is located __________________________. This includes most of the contact information that you will need.
  • Go through all desk files to familiarize yourselves with what is there and where policies and other data are located.
  •  Register the will with the court house. Many assets will transfer out of probate.

Note: Our jointly owned assets such as checking and savings accounts, stocks and bonds, house and cars go automatically to the surviving spouse in most states. Review The Executors Guide or contact your lawyer for detailed guidance. Assets owned individually have designated beneficiaries, “Pay on Death” account designations or are passed direct to our children or loved ones through “Living Trusts” located __________________________. Living Trusts are not recorded like the will. Read the instructions with the Living Trusts and use the book Plan Your Estate for more guidance.

  • File insurance claims – Survivor’s report lists ALL insurance contact information and you will find insurance policies located at _______________________________. You will need a death certificate for each policy. I have the following policies:
    • FEGLI (Federal Employees Government Life Insurance)  $________ until retirement, $_____________ after retirement. There number is (1-800-633-4542).
    • Company Name: ___________________ for $___________ Beneficiaries _________________________
      Phone #: _____________________
    • Company Name: ___________________ for $ __________ Beneficiaries _________________________
      Phone #: _____________________
    • Company Name: ___________________ for $ __________ Beneficiaries _________________________
      Phone #: _____________________
  • Change registration on all common assets:
    • Change name on residence to “Spouse - or loved ones - "Name” or to a “Living Trust” to avoid probate. Check out estate planning items such as a “Living Trust” for “Surviving Spouse or loved ones.”
    • Change name on all joint assets to “Surviving Spouse” with designated beneficiary or if no surviving spouse to designated beneficiaries. (Add “Pay on Death (POD)” whenever possible when you register the documents to avoid probate later.)
    • Some assets/stocks, etc. will go direct to “children or other loved ones” upon either my or my “Spouse's” death. Designated beneficiaries must send in a certified death certificate to the account/asset manager to change the registration to the new owner.

Note: New owners need to identify beneficiaries or add (Pay on Death) POD. Be sure to add a beneficiary or POD designation for the new owner registration.

  • All of my savings bonds are designated Pay on Death (POD) to _________________. All the “Surviving Spouse” or beneficiary has to do is present a Certified Death Certificate to the bank when you cash the bonds in. the “Surviving Spouse” or beneficiary will have to pay taxes on the bond interest. Make sure the bank provides a statement of interest earned for income taxes the year they were cashed.
  • All income tax files for the past____ years are located  ________________________________________________.  
  • Print a copy of the Master Contact List, available on this site, for your use.

Survivor Assistance 



OPM publishes two informative booklets for FERS and CSRS survivors. You can download the PDF files here and print them out on your computer. I recommend placing a copy of the booklet for the system you retired under in your Survivor's Binder or store a copy with your will.

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