My partner or someone in my family has died – what do I do about their pensions?

If someone close to you dies, you might receive their pension – regardless of whether they had started to take money from it. This might be a personal or a workplace pension.

What’s in this guide

What to do first

It is always distressing to lose someone, but it is worth dealing with finances as soon as you can.

This will avoid things getting more complicated, for example, you being asked to repay money or pay tax charges.

The benefits you might get, and how they’re taxed, depends on:

  • the type of pension scheme the person belonged to
  • whether they were still paying into the scheme when they died
  • whether they had started taking money from their pension pot
  • the pension scheme’s rules.
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If the person who died was drawing a pension, it’s important to tell the pension scheme as soon as possible. This is because you might have to pay back any pension payments received after their death.

You might be able to get information on who has been making pension payments by looking at recent bank statements.

If they hadn’t started drawing a pension before they died, contact the providers for all the pension schemes they belonged to.

It might also be worth checking for membership of other schemes through the pension tracing service.

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Workplace pension

Since 2012, most workers have joined their employer’s pension scheme. Many employers, especially larger ones, offered pension schemes before this – including for most workers in the public sector.

When contacting a scheme, it’s a good idea to keep a copy of all your correspondence, as it can be hard to remember what’s happened at a time like this.

And keep a note of any phone calls, including the date and the name of the person you spoke to.

A person’s will and estate

Usually, pensions don’t form part of the person’s estate, and aren’t covered by their will.

So if you’re due to receive benefits from the scheme, you can usually deal directly with the provider. Be aware that they might ask who the executor is.

Because pensions aren't generally part of the person’s estate, it might be possible to be paid benefits before the probate process starts. This might help cover bills, for example, until the rest of their estate is settled.

The pension provider will tell you what paperwork they need to pay out any benefits. For example, they’ll want to see the death certificate and they might need evidence of the beneficiary’s identity. Even if you know that you were named as the beneficiary, most pension providers have discretion over who they pay the money to. So they might ask for details of the financial circumstances of the person who has died. Although they will take into account that you were chosen by the person when they were alive.

Defined contribution pension

If the person who died had a defined contribution pension, and you’re due to get money on their death, you can have a free and impartial Pension Wise appointment. Our specialists will explain the options open to you with the money from the pot.

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State Pension

Was the person who has died drawing a State Pension, or reached State Pension age and delayed taking it? Then it’s important to notify the Pension Service.

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Generally, when someone dies, their State Pension will stop being paid. And if they haven’t started to draw their State Pension, you won’t be paid anything.

There are a few situations where their spouse or civil partner might inherit some of their State Pension. 

The rules on inheriting your partner’s State Pension are complicated. They can depend both on what each of you have built up and when each of you reached State Pension age.

It’s not possible for anyone other than a spouse or civil partner to inherit a State Pension.

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Other things to consider

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MoneyHelper is the new, easy way to get clear, free,
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Whatever your circumstances or plans, move forward with MoneyHelper.

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Looking for us? Now, we’re MoneyHelper

MoneyHelper is the new, easy way to get clear, free,
impartial help for all your money and pension choices.
Whatever your circumstances or plans, move forward with MoneyHelper.

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