Ask The Experts: Retirement

By Reg Jones

Divorce, remarriage and survivor annuity

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Q. I worked in the civil service program for 34 years and retired in 1998. I named my wife as the survivor annuitant.

In August 2005, she and I divorced. Even though the annuity was not mentioned in the divorce documents, I did not change the designation. Now I have been residing with a significant other for more than six years.

I would like to marry this woman and name her as the annuitant for my federal retirement. With no mention of the annuity in the divorce documents, can I make this change? If so, and since I have continually made the monthly adjustment to my retirement for a survivor annuitant, can this change become effective immediately, or must we conform to the nine-month waiting period?

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Remarriage and deceased spouse’s retirement

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Q. If I remarry, will I lose my husband’s civil service retirement? He passed away almost four years ago, and I receive spousal retirement from him. I am also a civil service retiree and get my own retirement.

A. No, you won’t, unless you remarry before age 55. If you do, your survivor annuity will be terminated. It can be restored if your marriage is dissolved by death, annulment or divorce.

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Beneficiaries

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Q. I will be retiring this summer, and my ex-husband has remarried, so he has no claim to my annuity when I die. Can I choose to leave my annuity to my children?

A. No. However, if you designate them as your beneficiaries and die before your contributions to the retirement fund have been returned to you in your annuity payments, any remaining amount would be paid to them.

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Remarriage and survivor annuity

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Q. I have been a CSRS retiree for six years. I am getting remarried shortly. I want to ensure my Federal Employees Health Benefits continue to be available to my spouse after my death. I understand I have two years from date of marriage to elect a survivor annuity. May I select either a full survivor benefit or a reduced survivor benefit and still retain the FEHB from my surviving spouse? If reduced is an option, how much can it be reduced and still retain the FEHB?

A. Because you are a CSRS retiree, with your spouse’s written and notarized consent, you can elect any amount from $1 a year on up. If the amount of your survivor spouse’s annuity isn’t sufficient to pay the premiums, he or she can pay them directly to the Office of Personnel Management.

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USPS retirement, spouse death and remarriage

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Q. I am a 77-year-old widow of a postmaster with 30-plus years’ service who passed away in 1993. I have since received spousal benefits plus insurance coverage. I do not receive Social Security. I have not remarried. However, if I marry a widower who retired from military service (Marine officer and FBI) after 30-plus years, how will my benefits and insurance be affected?

A. They won’t be affected.

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Remarriage, pension and retirement

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Q. My 93-year-old father has been retired from the federal government since he was 62. My mother passed away 22 years ago. He wants to marry a very young woman so she can get his pension. I can’t imagine the government would allow this. He is adamant that she will receive his pension if he marries her.

A. Yes, he can elect a survivor annuity for a new wife. However, he needs to keep two things in mind. First, she wouldn’t be entitled to anything unless the marriage lasted for nine months before he died.

Second, the cost of such an election might be prohibitive. To pay for it, there would be two reductions in his annuity. One would be the standard deduction to provide the survivor benefit — a 10 percent reduction if he wanted to provide a full survivor annuity. The other would be a permanent actuarial reduction to pay the survivor benefit deposit. The deposit equals the difference between the new annuity rate and the annuity paid to him for each month since he retired, plus 6 percent interest. The reduction would be determined by the amount he owes divided by his age on the date his annuity is reduced to provide the survivor benefit. We’re talking big money here.

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Pension benefits from remarried father

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Q. My father left my mom and me many years ago and remarried. He passed away a number of years ago. He was a federal employee, and his second wife got his benefits. Am I as his daughter able to receive benefits from his pension? He stopped sending us a check of $50 when I was 16.

A. No.

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Survivor benefit — 82 and 19

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Q. I am an 82-year-old CSRS retiree who wants to know what benefits would be available to a new spouse age 19 if a man my age were to marry that age woman. Would she receive an annuity, and what percentage, based on my annuity?

A. There would be two reductions in your annuity to pay for the survivor benefit. One would be the standard reduction to provide a survivor annuity (approximately 10 percent of your unreduced annuity). Second would be a permanent actuarial reduction to pay the survivor benefit deposit. That deposit equals the difference between the new annuity rate and the annuity paid to you for each month since retirement, plus 6 percent interest. The reduction is determined by dividing the amount of the deposit by an actuarial factor for your age on the date your annuity is reduced to provide for a survivor annuity. Note: You would have to be married for at least nine months before your death for her to receive any benefit.

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Health care coverage for new spouse

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Q. I have worked for the federal government for 26 years, and will be eligible to retire next year at age 56. I have family coverage with Blue Cross/Blue Shield for myself and my children but not my ex-husband. If I remarry, I assume I can add my new husband to my family policy. Will my new husband be eligible for health care coverage under my policy in retirement if I retire within the next two to five years?

A. As long as your husband is covered by your self-and-family enrollment on the day you retire, he will remain covered as long as you keep that coverage. If you were to die, he would only be able to do that if he was receiving a CSRS or FERS annuity or you had elected a survivor annuity for him.

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Remarriage

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Q. I am a CSRS retiree and also draw a CSRS annuity on my deceased husband. I have been widowed for seven years and plan to remarry this year. I am 67. Am I secure to keep receiving my survivor annuity after I remarry? I do not want to lose it, and your answer will affect my decision. I think the rule is that you must be 55 to continue the survivor annuity.

A. There is no bar to your remarrying and receiving the survivor annuity based on your late husband’s election of a survivor annuity. The criterion you refer to applies only if a survivor remarries before age 55 and was married to the deceased spouse for fewer than 30 years .

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Remarriage and survivor annuity

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Q. I am a single, retired CSRS annuitant, age 69, whose wife passed away before I retired in January 2004.  It is my understanding that if I marry after retirement, I have two years from the date of marriage to sign my new wife up for survivor benefits. Then, nine months after I sign my wife up for the benefits, my annuity will be reduced to pay for the benefits.  If I were to die before the nine months has passed, what happens to my survivor benefit request? Also, if I were to die after nine months but before the benefits are paid for, what happens to the survivor benefits?

A. If you were married for at least nine months and had applied for a survivor benefit for your wife, she would be entitled to that benefit. If you had been married for fewer than nine months, your spouse wouldn’t be entitled to a survivor annuity.

If your marriage were to end because of death, divorce or annulment, the reduction in your own annuity would stop. Once you notified the Office of Personnel Management, your annuity would be prospectively restored to what it would have been had you not elected a survivor benefit.

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Canceling survivor benefit

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Q. I have been retired with CSRS for 15 years. I remarried very shortly after retirement. My first wife had died several years earlier. I added my second wife for full survivor benefit soon after retirement and well within the two years of marriage. Is it simple to remove my second wife’s survivor benefit to save money and receive more pension each month now? I understand it’s a 10 percent reduction to have a full survivor, so would we receive 10 percent more now? Would we receive a benefit of the equivalent of the permanent actuarial reduction that one pays when one adds a survivor? Can we add her back on at some point? Also, if she no longer has survivor benefit, would she still be eligible to receive health insurance while I’m alive?

A. Since you can’t cancel your survivor benefit election, the rest of your questions are moot.

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Rules on remarriage

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Q. I am a single CSRS annuitant, age 69. My wife passed away before I retired. I may remarry. According to my research, I have two years after marriage to request a survivor benefit for my new wife. Also, I must be married nine months before my new wife can receive a survivor benefit. What occurs if I were to have requested a survivor’s benefit for her within the two years after marriage, but I passed away before the nine months occurred?

A. If you had been married for nine months before you passed away, she would be entitled to the survivor benefit. If you hadn’t, she wouldn’t.

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Remarriage and the survivor annuity

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Q. I’m 45. My wife died at 42 and was granted retirement from the government due to her diagnosis. Would I lose my annuity if I remarry now, even with three small children from that marriage?

A. No, you wouldn’t lose your survivor annuity.

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Remarrying and annuity

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Q. A widower is receiving death annuity payments from a deceased wife.  He is now age 73 and would like to remarry.  He is retiring in 30 days and wanted to know if he would lose the annuity?

A. Remarrying would have no effect on his continued entitlement to a survivor annuity.

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Surviving spouse annuity

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Q: I am the surviving spouse of a federal employee and have been receiving an annuity since the death of my husband in 1993. My question is whether my annuity will continue if I marry again. I am well over the age of 55. I cannot seem to find the answer to this on the official website.

A: Because you are age 55 or older, if you remarry your annuity will continue.

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Post office survivor annuity

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Q: My husband passed away Jan. 25, 2009, and I’m receiving his Social Security benefits, as well as benefits from the U.S. Postal Service. If I remarry, will I lose the benefits from the USPS? I know I will still collect his Social Security.

A: Unless you were to remarry before age 55, your survivor annuity wouldn’t be affected. If you did remarry before age 55, that annuity would be suspended. It could only be restarted is the marriage were ended by annulment, divorce or the death of the new spouse.

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Survivor annuity and second marriages

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Q: If an widow is receiving survivor benefits through the Civil Service Retirement System and she remarries, do her benefits stop?

A: Yes, if she remarries before age 55. However, if that marriage ends in annulment or divorce, the survivor annuity can be reinstated.

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Survivor annuities and remarriage

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Q: I have been receiving my husband’s annuity since he died in 2003. If I were to remarry, would I lose his annuity?

A: Your survivor annuity would be suspended if you were to remarry before age 55. If that remarriage ended in annulment, divorce or the death of your new spouse, the survivor annuity would be restored.

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