What happens to your State Pension when you die?


by Lorna White |

Q. My partner and I have been together for 34 years and have recently discussed getting married before it's too late.

We would like to know if we did marry and one of us died first would the other one get widow’s or widower’s pension. At the moment we get State Pension and have been told it doesn't exist anymore.

A. Kate Smith at Aegon says:

Congratulations on your engagement and I hope wedding plans are in full swing. I’m so pleased you’ve considered the impact getting married might have on your retirement plans and finances, a lot of people don’t and by the time they realise the impact it’s too late.

You’re absolutely right, the State Pension rules changed on April 6 2016, but only for people who reached State Pension Age on or after this date. They will receive the New State Pension and entitlement is based on the individual’s own National Insurance contribution record, which means it can’t be inherited. However, there are some complex transitional rules which allow spouses or civil partners to inherit part of what is known as the Additional State Pension.

I’m assuming that you and your partner reached State Pension Age before April 6 2016, and that you are therefore receiving the Basic State pension, possibly also an earnings-related State pension known as the ”Additional State Pension”. If this is the case and you are married it is possible to inherit part of your husband’s State pension, should you die before him, but only if you are not entitled to the full Basic State Pension, currently of £119.30 a week (2016/17) based on your own National Insurance record. You may however be able to inherit part of your husband’s Additional State Pension. The same rules would apply if you die before your husband.

If you haven’t built up the full Basic State Pension in your own right, it’s possible for you to apply, post death, for your husband’s National Insurance record to be used to calculate your Basic State Pension, instead of your own to give a higher pension. Similarly your husband would be able to apply to use your NI record, if it gives a higher State pension.

In addition you may also be able to claim a bereavement benefit of £2,000; eligibility depends on the amount of NI contributions you’ve paid.

I suggest you ring the Government’s Pension Service helpline on 0345 606 0265 and find out exactly what you are both entitled to in the event of your death.

If you also have private pensions, you should find out what benefits are payable on death by contacting all your schemes. Death benefits payable will vary depending on the pension scheme you or your partner saved into, some schemes are more flexible than others. Find out more on passing on private pensions, final salary pensions and annuities

Action plan

  • Contact the Government’s Pension Service on 0345 606 0265, tell them you are getting married and find out exactly what State benefits you would be entitled to in the event of your husband’s death. Have your national insurance number handy.

  • Contact all your private pension schemes and find out what benefits are payable on death following your marriage. Find out if it makes any difference to the benefits payable if you decide to simply live together.

  • Related: Benefits for over 60s

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