There are several threshold requirements for any such payments. You must have had 18 months of creditable civilian service and (except in cases of accidental death) your surviving spouse must have been married to you for at least nine months at the time of death, or be a parent of a child of the marriage. If those requirements are met:
If you are under the Civil Service Retirement System, a spousal annuity is 55 percent of an annuity computed as if you had retired on a disability retirement as of the date of death. Spouses receive 55 percent of the higher of an annuity computed under the general formula based on your high-3 average salary and length of service to date of death, including credit for unused sick leave; or a “guaranteed minimum.” That is the lesser of: 40 percent of your high-3 average salary; or the regular annuity obtained after increasing your length of service by the period of time between the date of death and the date you would have been age 60, if death was before age 60.
If you are under the Federal Employees Retirement System, and you had at least 18 months but less than 10 years of service, your surviving spouse would receive a lump sum of about $32,000 (the figure is inflation-indexed each year), plus a lump sum of the higher of 50 percent of annual basic pay at time of death or 50 percent of high-3 average salary, plus any Social Security benefits payable. If you had more than 10 years of service your surviving spouse additionally will receive an annuity equal to 50 percent of the annuity you had earned as of date of death.
In addition, children receive benefits if unmarried, under the age of 18 (or 22 if attending school) or any age if disabled before age 18. The children’s rate when there is a surviving parent is about $500 per month per eligible child or about $1,500 per month divided by the number of eligible children (if four or more). If there is no surviving parent the rate is about $600 per month per eligible child or about $1,800 per month divided by the number of eligible children (if four or more). These rates are inflation-indexed each year.
Note: If no spouse or children are eligible for a survivor annuity, your retirement contributions, plus interest as applicable, will be paid as a lump-sum to the beneficiary you designated (on form SF 2808 for CSRS, SF 3102 for FERS) or, in the absence of a designated beneficiary, under a standard order of precedence.
All money in your Thrift Savings Plan account would payable to your designated survivors, or if you made no designation, in an order of precedence. A spouse beneficiary may keep the account open and has the same account management and withdrawal rights as employee participants. Other beneficiaries must close out the account, either by taking a withdrawal or by transferring the money to an individual retirement account or other qualifying retirement savings plan.