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What happens to your State Pension when you die?

When you die, your widow, widower or surviving civil partner may be entitled to some of your State Pension entitlements. Find out if your partner is eligible for basic State Pension, bereavement benefits and additional State Pension.

Basic State Pension

Your widow, widower or surviving civil partner may be entitled to some basic State Pension based on your National Insurance contributions (NICs) if they have not already built up a full basic State Pension on their own NICs record.

If you die while they are under State Pension age, they will lose this right if they:

  • remarry (before they reach State Pension age)
  • form a new civil partnership (before they reach State Pension age)

Your widow, widower or surviving civil partner may be entitled to your extra State Pension. They may be entitled if you put off claiming your State Pension when you reached State Pension age.

Bereavement benefits

Your widowed legal husband, wife or civil partner may also be able to claim the following bereavement benefits:

  • a one-off Bereavement Payment
  • Bereavement Allowance for one year
  • Widowed Parent’s Allowance (if they have a dependent child or children)

All these benefits will depend on the amount of National Insurance contributions you’ve paid, or are treated as having paid.

If they’re still of working age, they may also be able to claim tax credits.

Additional State Pension

You may have contributed towards an additional State Pension - also known as the State Earnings-Related Pension Scheme (SERPS) and State Second Pension.

If you die, your spouse or civil partner can inherit some of this additional pension.

To see how much additional State Pension can be inherited, see 'SERPS and the State Second Pension'. To find out more about additional State Pension, see ‘Understanding the additional State Pension’.

Putting off claiming your State Pension

When you reach State Pension age, you may choose to put off claiming your State Pension.

If you put off claiming your State Pension in this way, you can choose to get either of the following:

  • extra State Pension when you start to claim it (around 10.4 per cent extra for every year you put off claiming it)
  • a lump-sum payment (based on the amount you put off claiming, plus interest at two per cent above the Bank of England base rate)

Changes to the State Pension age

The State Pension age is increasing. To find out more see ‘Calculating your State Pension age’.

If you die before starting to claim the State Pension you have put off claiming

Your extra State Pension may be added to your spouse's or civil partner's State Pension. If you get an additional State Pension, they can still inherit some of this – usually around half.

You may inherit extra State Pension or a lump sum payment from your spouse or civil partner if either of the following applies:

  • you are a surviving husband or a surviving civil partner and you reach State Pension age on or after 6 April 2010
  • you are a surviving wife

The above will not apply if you re-marry or enter a civil partnership before reaching State Pension age.

If you inherit a lump sum payment, it will be liable for inheritance tax.

If you die after starting to claim a State Pension you had put off claiming

Your widow's, widower's or civil partner's own State Pension payments will be increased. For any basic State Pension you put off claiming, your widow, widower or civil partner will be entitled to the same amount as you would have received. They'll also be entitled to some of your additional State Pension (usually half), if you were receiving any.

If you chose a lump-sum payment instead of extra State Pension, any amount you still have left forms part of your estate. The State Pension payments of your widow, widower or civil partner won't be increased.

State Pension rights if you have no spouse or civil partner

If you have no husband, wife or civil partner when you die, the State Pension you put off claiming becomes part of your estate. Your next-of-kin can claim an amount equal to the first three months of extra State Pension payments.

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