Preparing in Advance

The essential information you need to provide to your survivors now.

This week’s column is inspired by a pamphlet prepared by the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association for its members. The publication is called “Be Prepared for Life’s Events.”

NARFE formed in 1921, the year after Congress passed the law creating the Civil Service Retirement System. It represents the interests of nearly 5 million active and retired federal workers by providing them a voice before Congress. NARFE sponsors and supports legislation to protect the retirement benefits of its members.

I think of NARFE as a friend who is watching your back. It has a long history of organizing protests of efforts to trim federal benefits, such as one that helped lead to the repeal of the 1988 Medicare Catastrophic Coverage Act.

I recently had the pleasure of visiting NARFE Headquarters in Alexandria, Va., and found an organization that doesn’t look like it’s nearly 100 years old. I’ve been a NARFE member since 1988 and still look forward to receiving the organization’s monthly magazine and the updates posted to its website.

Now that I’m beginning to phase into my own retirement, I’m trying to make time for my local NARFE Chapter. Last year our chapter (Woodbridge, Va., Chapter 1270) raised more than $30,000 for Alzheimer’s research at an annual fashion show in which I participated. For those who can’t attend regular meetings and events, NARFE now offers an electronic chapter option known as eNarfe.

One important role NARFE plays is helping survivors of federal employees and retirees navigate the benefits that are available to them upon the death of a current federal employee or annuitant. That’s where the “Life’s Events” pamphlet comes in. It outlines a simple three-step process for survivors:

  • Return payments and checks issued after the date of death and notify financial institutions that are receiving direct deposit of those payments.
  • Notify the agencies that were paying benefits to the deceased.
  • Obtain certified copies of the death certificate to establish eligibility to be paid death benefits, such as Civil Service Retirement System and Federal Employees Retirement System survivor benefits, Federal Employees Group Life Insurance benefits, Thrift Savings Plan funds and Social Security.

The pamphlet includes forms to record important information that will make it much easier for your survivors to know who they need to contact in the event of your death. This includes:

  • Personal information
  • Retirement asset information
  • Financial records
  • Liability account numbers
  • Lender information
  • Insurance information
  • List and location of important documents
  • Who to notify
  • Burial instructions

There’s also a sample notification letter that can be sent to the Office of Personnel Management’s Retirement Operations Center to assist your survivors in providing all of the information needed for OPM to process benefits payable upon your death.

I know there are many organizations that represent federal employees in important ways. I chose to write about NARFE today since I’ve had a lot of personal experience with this organization. In these days when I sense a fear in many current federal employees and retirees, it is good to know you’re not alone and that people are trying to protect what you’ve worked for.

NEXT STORY: The Commuter Benefit Chase