Temporary Waiver of Notarization Requirement for Spousal Consent

 
CONTENT
Federal Register, Volume 85 Issue 75 (Friday, April 17, 2020)
[Federal Register Volume 85, Number 75 (Friday, April 17, 2020)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 21311-21312]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2020-07734]
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Rules and Regulations
 Federal Register
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This section of the FEDERAL REGISTER contains regulatory documents
having general applicability and legal effect, most of which are keyed
to and codified in the Code of Federal Regulations, which is published
under 50 titles pursuant to 44 U.S.C. 1510.
The Code of Federal Regulations is sold by the Superintendent of Documents.
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Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 75 / Friday, April 17, 2020 / Rules
and Regulations
[[Page 21311]]
FEDERAL RETIREMENT THRIFT INVESTMENT BOARD
5 CFR Part 1650
Temporary Waiver of Notarization Requirement for Spousal Consent
AGENCY: Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board.
ACTION: Interim rule.
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SUMMARY: In light of emergency stay-at-home and shelter-in-place orders
issued all over the country, the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment
Board (FRTIB) is temporarily waiving the requirement to notarize a
spouse's signature on withdrawal election forms.
DATES: This interim rule is effective April 17, 2020 and shall remain
effective until withdrawn. The FRTIB will consider public comments
regarding the duration of time that this rule should remain effective.
Comments must be received by May 18, 2020.
ADDRESSES: You may submit comments using one of the following methods:
 Federal Rulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov.
Follow the instructions for submitting comments.
 Mail: Office of General Counsel, Attn: Megan G. Grumbine,
Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board, 77 K Street NE, Suite 1000,
Washington, DC 20002.
 Facsimile: Comments may be submitted by facsimile at (202)
942-1676.
 Since March 23, 2020, the FRTIB has been operating under a
mandatory telework status due to the coronavirus pandemic which has
severely limited the ability to timely monitor mail and facsimiles.
Therefore, we strongly encourage using the Federal Rulemaking Portal to
submit comments.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:
 For press inquiries, contact Kim Weaver at (202) 942-1641.
 For information about how to comment on this interim rule, contact
Laurissa Stokes at (202) 942-1645.
SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:
Background
 The FRTIB administers the TSP, which was established by the Federal
Employees' Retirement System Act of 1986 (FERSA), Public Law 99-335,
100 Stat. 514. The TSP is a tax-deferred retirement savings plan for
Federal civilian employees and members of the uniformed services. The
TSP is similar to cash or deferred arrangements established for
private-sector employees under section 401(k) of the Internal Revenue
Code (26 U.S.C. 401(k)).
 A spouse of a FERS or uniformed services TSP participant has an
automatic legal entitlement to a survivor annuity. Annuities are
purchased with the balance of the participant's TSP account, and such
purchases are made pursuant a withdrawal election. Consequently, the
default TSP withdrawal election is a joint life annuity with the 50%
survivor benefit. The participant cannot make any other type of
withdrawal unless the participant's spouse signs a written statement
waiving his or her entitlement to a survivor annuity. This signed,
written waiver (``spousal consent'') is a statutory requirement. 5
U.S.C. 8435(b) and (c). The statute does not, however, require spousal
consent to be notarized.
 The FRTIB Executive Director has the authority to issue regulations
to administer the TSP. 5 U.S.C. 8474(b)(5). In 2003, the Executive
Director published a regulation requiring spousal consent to be
notarized. 68 FR 74450 (December 23, 2003).
Necessity and Effect of This Interim Rule
 The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted day-to-day life in an
unprecedented way. These disruptions, which include mandatory business
and school closures, stay-at-home/shelter-in-place orders, and
quarantines have made it difficult and unsafe to have forms notarized
in-person.
 States are increasingly permitting remote online notarization. As
of January 1, 2020, twenty-two states had already adopted laws that
enable notaries to perform remote notarizations. In response to the
coronavirus pandemic, at least 21 states have issued emergency orders
that accelerate the effective dates of laws that would permit remote
notarization or temporarily waive certain provisions of law that would
otherwise impede the availability of remote notarization.
 The FRTIB recognizes that many TSP participants will confront
extraordinary uncertainty due to rapid evolution of state laws and
unfamiliarity with the technology used for remote notarization. In
addition, the TSP does not currently have the technological workflow to
allow participants to submit remotely notarized forms electronically.
Although the FRTIB is diligently working to add this capability, it is
not yet available.
 Under these conditions, the regulation requiring spousal consent to
be notarized has become an extraordinary hurdle for married TSP
participants who need to request a withdrawal during this difficult
time. Therefore, the Executive Director has determined that is
necessary to temporarily waive the notarization requirement for spousal
consent.
 Only the notarization requirement is waived. Married participants
must still obtain their spouse's consent. The consent must be evidenced
by the spouse's signature (or any electronic signature alternative that
the TSP has deemed sufficient to constitute written consent).
Participants are reminded that any intentional false statement or
willful misrepresentation concerning their marital status or provision
of their spouse's consent is punishable by fine or imprisonment of up
to 5 years, or both. 18 U.S.C. 1001.
Type of Rulemaking
 The Administrative Procedure Act, Public Law 79-404, 60 Stat. 237,
generally requires that an agency publish an adopted rule in the
Federal Register at least 30 days before it becomes effective in order
to provide an opportunity for public comment. This requirement does not
apply, however, if the agency ``for good cause finds . . . that notice
and public procedure are impracticable, unnecessary, or contrary to the
public interest.'' 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(3)(B). Given the significant and
immediate impact of the coronavirus pandemic on TSP participants, as
discussed above, the FRTIB finds that good cause exists to dispense
with notice and comment as impracticable and unnecessary, and to act
immediately to amend 5 CFR part 1650. The FRTIB will, however, consider
public comments regarding the duration of time that this rule shall
remain effective.
[[Page 21312]]
Regulatory Flexibility Act
 I certify that this regulation will not have a significant economic
impact on a substantial number of small entities. This regulation will
affect Federal employees and members of the uniformed services who
participate in the Thrift Savings Plan, which is a Federal defined
contribution retirement savings plan created under the Federal
Employees' Retirement System Act of 1986 (FERSA), Public Law 99-335,
100 Stat. 514, and which is administered by the Agency.
Paperwork Reduction Act
 I certify that this regulation does not require additional
reporting under the criteria of the Paperwork Reduction Act.
Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995
 Pursuant to the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995, 2 U.S.C. 602,
632, 653, 1501-1571, the effects of this regulation on state, local,
and tribal governments and the private sector have been assessed. This
regulation will not compel the expenditure in any one year of $100
million or more by state, local, and tribal governments, in the
aggregate, or by the private sector. Therefore, a statement under
section 1532 is not required.
List of Subjects in 5 CFR Part 1650
 Alimony, Claims, Government employees, Pensions, Retirement.
Ravindra Deo,
Executive Director, Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board.
 For the reasons stated in the preamble, the FRTIB amends 5 CFR part
1650 as follows:
PART 1650--METHODS OF WITHDRAWING FUNDS FROM THE THRIFT SAVINGS
PLAN
0
1. The authority citation for part 1650 continues to read as follows:
 Authority: 5 U.S.C. 8351, 8432d, 8433, 8434, 8435, 8474(b)5 and
8474(c)(1).
0
2. Amend Sec. 1650.61 by revising paragraph (c)(4) to read as follows:
Sec. 1650.61 Spousal rights applicable to post-employment
withdrawals.
* * * * *
 (c) * * *
 (4) Unless the TSP granted the participant an exception under this
subpart to the spousal notification requirement within 90 days of the
date the withdrawal form is processed by the TSP, to show that the
spouse has consented to a different total or partial withdrawal
election or installment payment change and waived the right to this
annuity with respect to the applicable amount, the participant must
submit to the TSP record keeper a properly completed withdrawal request
form, signed by his or her spouse. If the TSP granted the participant
an exception to the signature requirement, the participant should
enclose a copy of the TSP's approval letter with the withdrawal form.
* * * * *
0
3. Amend Sec. 1650.62 by revising paragraph (c) to read as follows:
Sec. 1650.62 Spousal rights applicable to in-service withdrawals.
* * * * *
 (c) Unless the participant was granted an exception under this
subpart to the signature requirement within 90 days of the date the
withdrawal form is processed by the TSP, before obtaining an in-service
withdrawal, a participant who is covered by FERS or who is a member of
the uniformed services must obtain the consent of his or her spouse and
waiver of the spouse's right to a joint and survivor annuity described
in Sec. 1650.61(c) with respect to the applicable amount.
 To show the spouse's consent and waiver, a participant must submit
to the TSP record keeper a properly completed withdrawal request form,
signed by his or her spouse. Once a form containing the spouse's
consent and waiver has been submitted to the TSP record keeper, the
spouse's consent is irrevocable for that withdrawal.
[FR Doc. 2020-07734 Filed 4-16-20; 8:45 am]
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