The Federal Employees Retirement System is not always easy to navigate. When a government employee dies, who gets the benefits? It is important for survivors to understand how they can receive the benefits of their deceased spouse or parent. With this guide, individuals will better understand their rights and the steps they need to take to receive survivor benefits. 

What Is FERS?

FERS is a federal employee retirement system that was put into place in 1987. This system has three tiers, including the following.

  • FERS Basic Benefit
  • Social Security Benefit
  • Thrift Savings Plan Benefit

Federal employees are allowed to contribute a certain percentage to their benefits. Many people become confused regarding how they receive their benefits. It can be especially stressful when a surviving spouse attempts to collect on their benefits. Knowing the steps they need to take will help surviving spouses seek the benefits they are entitled to receive. 

Understanding the Basic Employee Death Benefit

When a federal civil employee dies and has had at least 18 months of creditable service, their surviving spouse may be entitled to receive a survivor annuity. There are some stipulations for receiving this annuity, and they include the following. 

  • The surviving spouse must have been married to the deceased for at least nine months. 
  • The federal employee’s death was accidental. 
  • There is a child born in the marriage. 

The Basic Employee Death Benefit equals 50% of the deceased’s final salary. This benefit also includes $32,423.56 that is always paid out as a lump sum. The amount of this added benefit is increased periodically, based on the cost of living increases, to try and keep up with inflation. 

What About Former Spouses?

Former spouses of deceased federal employees may be entitled to the Basic Employee Death Benefit if there is an award of benefits on file and the former spouse was married to the deceased for at least nine months and did not remarry before turning the age of fifty-five. Spouses should inquire about survivor benefits as soon as possible after the death of their former spouse. 

Understanding Monthly Survivor Benefits

FERS also provides monthly survivor benefits, depending on the years of service. The surviving spouse will receive monthly benefits if they were married to the deceased for at least nine months and the deceased federal employee served at least ten years of creditable civil service employment. 

Spouses who were not married at least nine months may also be entitled to receiving benefits as long as the following apply.

  • The deceased federal employee’s death was ruled accidental. 
  • There is a child in the marriage. 

Former Spouses Can Also Receive Monthly Survivor Benefits

Just like with the Basic Employee Death Benefit, former spouses may be entitled to monthly survivor benefits. For a former spouse to receive monthly benefits, they must have been married to the deceased federal employee for at least nine months. There must also be a court order on file. 

Can Surviving Children Receive Monthly Survivor Benefits?

Unmarried children who were dependent on the deceased federal employee may also be entitled to receive a monthly survivor benefit. The child can receive monthly benefits up to the age of eighteen. They can receive further benefits up to the age of 22 if they are a full-time student. The child is considered dependent if the following apply. 

  • The child lived with the deceased.
  • The deceased filed a petition to adopt the child. 
  • The child was adopted by the deceased’s spouse after the death of the deceased.
  • The child is a stepchild or a recognized child born out of wedlock. 

Death Benefits for Former Federal Employees

When a former federal employee dies, the surviving spouse may be entitled to receive a monthly survivor benefit. The former employee must have been employed for at least ten creditable years, with five being in civil service. The surviving spouse must have been married to the deceased at the time of their employment separation. 

Former spouses can also receive monthly benefits if there is a court order on file. If the deceased former employee died after leaving federal employment, surviving children will not be entitled to receiving any monthly benefits. 

Federal Employees must Plan for Retirement

It is essential that federal employees plan carefully to protect their families and transfer wealth efficiently upon death, making sure their surviving spouses and children will be protected and have their needs met. Many federal employees make the wise decision to seek professional help with retirement planning. Getting help from professionals ensures federal employees will have access to the retirement funds they require. 

Walker Capital Preservation Group helps people living in Charlotte, NC, and surrounding areas by assisting them in planning for their retirement. They provide extensive services to federal employees, business owners, individuals, and families. They also assist their customers with benefits coordination, insurance planning, and tax planning.