What to do about someone’s pension when they’ve died

Pensions need sorting out when someone dies. It’s possible that a spouse or another beneficiary might benefit. The amount claimed depends on the type of pension, the age of the deceased and their beneficiaries.

What to do about their State Pension

If the person who died was getting a State Pension, you need to tell the Pension Service they’ve died so that payments stop.

Call the Pension Service helpline on 0800 731 0469.

Claiming their State Pension

You might be entitled to extra pension payments from your spouse’s or civil partner’s State Pension.

It depends on the amount of National Insurance contributions they made and when you and your spouse or civil partner reach(ed) the State Pension age.

If you haven’t reached State Pension age, you might also qualify for Bereavement benefits.

What to do about their personal and workplace pensions

If you’re dealing with someone’s affairs after their death, check their paperwork to see if they had any personal or workplace pension schemes.

If they did, contact the pension provider to find out how much they had and what to do next.

If you don’t know who the pension provider is and the deceased was employed, contact their employer to see if there was a current workplace pension.

The amount you can claim and when you can claim it depends on which type of personal or workplace pension it is.

Defined contribution and defined benefit pensions provide different benefits on death.

You need to contact the pension provider, or employer, if it’s a workplace scheme, to find out how much the deceased had and how to claim that pension.

You can download this letter template to contact the pension provider (DOC 28KB) 

If you can’t find any trace of a personal or workplace pension, but you think the deceased person might have had one, the Pension Tracing Service can help you. This is a free, government-backed service.

Call them on 0800 731 0193 or find out more on the GOV.UK website

Defined contribution pensions

Different tax rules apply to the rules when inheriting a defined contribution pension.

It depends on whether the individual died before or after the age of 75.

If the person died before age 75:

  • If they received income from a single life annuity, this will stop unless there was a ‘guaranteed period’ attached to the annuity. In which case, it will continue to be paid tax-free until the end of the guarantee period – usually five or ten years.
  • If it was a joint life annuity, income will continue to be paid to the survivor – also tax-free – until their death. But this is usually at a reduced rate – half is common. If you’re not sure which they had, ask the annuity provider.
  • If the deceased had a flexi access drawdown pension which was set up or first accessed after 5 April 2015, any money paid within two years of the pension holder’s death will be paid tax-free.
  • However, if the pension is claimed more than two years after the pension holder’s death, tax might be payable.
  • Any money taken out of the pension scheme before death, or any investments bought with cash from the pension scheme, will count as part of the deceased’s estate and might be subject to Inheritance Tax.
  • The money in the pension will continue to grow tax-free as long as it stays invested.

If the person died age 75 or over:

  • If they received income from a single life annuity, this will stop unless there was a ‘guaranteed period’. In which case, it will be paid to the beneficiaries until the end of the guaranteed period. Income Tax will apply to the payments.
  • If it was a joint annuity, income will continue to be paid to the survivor, and Income Tax will apply.
  • Any money taken as a lump sum or as an income from a flexi-access drawdown scheme or from any untouched pension pot, will be added to the beneficiary’s’ other income and taxed in the normal way.

Defined benefit pensions

How a defined benefit pension pays out depends on whether the deceased was retired.

If the deceased hadn’t yet retired:

  • Most schemes will pay out a lump sum that is typically two or four times their salary.
  • If the person who died was under age 75, this lump sum is tax-free.
  • This type of pension usually also pays a taxable ‘survivor’s pension’ to the deceased’s spouse, civil partner or dependent child.

If the deceased was retired:

  • If the deceased received a pension from a defined benefit scheme, a reduced pension will often continue to be paid to a spouse, civil partner or other dependent according to the rules of the scheme.
  • Check what benefits are due with the pension scheme or provider.

Lifetime allowance

If the deceased has insufficient lifetime allowance remaining to cover the value of any pensions which have not already been tested against the lifetime allowance, you might have to pay more tax on any pension savings that exceeds this limit.

The allowance limit is currently £1,073,100 for the 2021/22 tax year.

More help with sorting out a pension

If you need more information about sorting out the pension of someone who’s died, or how you should claim their pension, contact us:

Was this information useful?
Thank you for your feedback.
We’re always trying to improve our website and services, and your feedback helps us understand how we’re doing.
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.

Continue to website
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.

Continue to website
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.

Continue to website
Talk to us live for…
Talk to us live for…
Talk to us live for pensions guidance using…
Talk to us live for money guidance using…
0800 011 3797* Hours
  • Mon – Fri:9.00am – 5.00pm
  • Sat, Sun and bank holidays:Closed

* Calls are free. We’re committed to providing you with a quality service, so calls may be recorded or monitored for training purposes and to help us develop our services.

Talk to us live for money guidance using the telephone
0800 138 7777* Hours
  • Mon – Fri:8.00am – 6.00pm
  • Sat, Sun and bank holidays:Closed

* Calls are free. We’re committed to providing you with a quality service, so calls may be recorded or monitored for training purposes and to help us develop our services.

Talk to us live for pensions guidance using web chat
Hours
  • Mon – Fri:9.00am – 6.00pm
  • Sat, Sun and bank holidays:Closed
Talk to us live for money guidance using web chat
Hours
  • Mon – Fri:8.00am – 6.00pm
  • Sat:8.00am – 3.00pm
  • Sun and bank holidays:Closed
Talk to us for pensions guidance using our web form

We aim to respond within 5 working days

Talk to us for money guidance using our web form

We aim to respond within 2 working days

Talk to us live for money guidance using WhatsApp
+44 77 0134 2744

Download app: WhatsApp

For help sorting out your debts, credit questions or pensions guidance. For everything else please contact us via Webchat or Telephone.