Do You Know Who Your Beneficiaries Are? (Are You Sure?)

Published July 9, 2021

Every year, we take important actions to stay on track and stay safe: we change our clocks; we check the smoke alarms; and we do our taxes. Yet, another and often overlooked item you should also maintain is your Beneficiary Designation Form with the Plans.

One of the most costly retirement and estate planning errors that participants make is failing to keep their Beneficiary Designation Form updated. Each year, the Plans office hears from a surviving family member or loved one surprised to find an ex-spouse or deceased relative unintentionally left as the beneficiary of a deceased participant’s survivor benefits. For example, the classic worst-case scenario is you get divorced, but your ex-spouse remains as your beneficiary because you never changed the form. You might have changed your will to reflect your current wishes, but after you die, it is your Beneficiary Designation Form (and not your will) that determines who receives survivor benefits.

Beneficiary Designation Forms override last wills and testaments in court, so those with assets to pass on should update them regularly, particularly after major life events like marriages, divorces, births and deaths.

You can quickly and easily check your current beneficiaries at any time using the myPHP online benefits portal, available at Registered myPHP users can view a listing of their current beneficiaries for the Basic and Supplemental Pension Plans, as well as the amount or percentage allocated to each, on the Pension tab (pictured below). The Beneficiary Designation Form is available on myPHP for you to download, complete and submit to the Plans office.

Having No Beneficiaries is Just as Bad
Just as problematic as having an outdated Beneficiary Designation Form is not having one at all. Your Beneficiary Designation Form is as important as your will and other documents and should be considered integral to your estate planning. Because of the complexity of laws governing estate issues, it is advisable that you consult an estate planner to make sure that your wishes are reflected in the appropriate documents.

In addition to the Beneficiary Designation Form, it is important to regularly review and update your HIPAA Authorization Form, Adult Dependent Authorization Form, and Third-Party Authorization Form, if you have any on file. These authorizations give the Plans office permission to discuss certain information with the people you designate. As those individuals change, so should your authorization forms.

To conclude, keeping your Beneficiary Designation Form up to date is just as important as doing your taxes or checking your smoke alarms. Set a time each year (such as tax season) to review your Beneficiary Designation Form and be sure to update it whenever your circumstances change. The Beneficiary Designation Form, as well as other important Pension and Health Plans forms, are available on the myPHP online benefits portal in the Documents and Forms tab and online at

Similarly, you should make sure that your contact information on file with the Plans is current and accurate, and notify us of any changes so we can keep you informed regarding your benefits.