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Name your PBGC beneficiary 

If you’ve earned a PBGC pension benefit, don’t forget to designate your beneficiary. 

There are two types of PBGC beneficiary: beneficiary for survivor benefits and beneficiary for money owed you at death.

Beneficiary for survivor benefits. You designate a survivor beneficiary on your application when you apply to start your PBGC benefit. You choose this beneficiary only if you elect an annuity that pays survivor benefits that continue after your death. The survivor beneficiary will receive those payments.

If you are married, your spouse will be your survivor beneficiary—unless your spouse gives written, notarized consent for you to designate someone else.

Beneficiary for money owed you at death. You designate this beneficiary when PBGC takes responsibility for your pension plan or at any time later. This beneficiary will receive any extra money (not survivor benefits) that PBGC owes you at the time of your death; for example, missed checks or underpayments. 

To designate this beneficiary: If you are not yet receiving payments, use Form 708; if you are receiving payments, use Form 707.

If you have a survivor beneficiary, that beneficiary will also receive any other money we owe you. If you don’t have a survivor beneficiary, it’s important to designate a beneficiary to receive any money owed you at death.

Changing Your Survivor Beneficiary. Your ability to change your survivor beneficiary depends on the type of annuity you chose when you started your PBGC benefit. 

Many people choose what’s known as a joint-and-survivor annuity. This annuity pays your survivor a fixed percentage of your benefit after your death. If you have started receiving payments from a joint-and-survivor annuity, you cannot designate a new beneficiary for survivor benefits. This is true even if your beneficiary dies. In that case, the benefit ends with your death and PBGC does not pay survivor benefits. 

Most married people with a joint-and-survivor annuity designate their spouse as survivor beneficiary. If your spouse is beneficiary and dies, or if you divorce, you cannot name a new spouse or someone else as survivor beneficiary.

You can designate a new beneficiary for survivor benefits if you are receiving payments from a continuous-and-certain annuity. This type of annuity pays you a benefit for the rest of your life and guarantees payments for a period of years, usually 5, 10, or 15 years. If you die before the period expires, the annuity will pay your survivor for the number of years remaining in the period. You designate this beneficiary on PBGC Form 711. If you were married when you started payments from a certain-and-continuous annuity, your spouse must give written, notarized consent to any change of beneficiary.

Changing Your Beneficiary for Money Owed You at Death. You can change this beneficiary at any time using the PBGC Form 707 If this beneficiary dies, it’s important to designate a new one, even if you haven’t started to receive payments. If you have a survivor beneficiary who outlives you, that person also will be your beneficiary for any money owed to you at death. 

If You Die Before You Start Your Pension Benefit. If you are married and die before you start to receive pension payments, PBGC will pay survivor benefits to your surviving spouse. You do not have to designate a beneficiary for survivor benefits. Under federal law, the payments will go to your spouse. However, your spouse should inform PBGC of your death to start payments. 

Generally, if you are not married or your spouse has died, PBGC will not pay any survivor benefits. However, you should designate a beneficiary for money owed you at death.

How to Designate Your Beneficiary. As noted above, you designate your beneficiary for survivor benefits when you apply to start pension payments.

There are two ways to designate or change your beneficiary to receive money owed you at death:  

  • Online through MyPBA. If you’ve never used MyPBA, here’s how to get started.


You can also obtain beneficiary designation forms by calling PBGC's Customer Contact Center (1-800-400-7242). 

Find out more about your PBGC annuity options.

For more information, visit Name Your PBGC Beneficiary FAQs.

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