State Pension inheritance rules after a spouse or partner dies

A senior couple enjoying summer vacation by the sea, celebrating their wedding anniversary
When someone passes away, their State Pension claim doesn't automatically cease; there are necessary steps to follow -Credit:Getty Images

The State Pension, which currently provides a regular income for nearly 12.7 million older people across Great Britain, is administered by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

It's available to those who have reached the UK Government's eligible retirement age - now 66 for both men and women - and have made at least 10 years' worth of National Insurance contributions.

Around 3.4 million individuals are now receiving payments of up to £221.20 each week from the New State Pension. As this contributory benefit is typically paid every four weeks, this equates to £884.80 per pay period, reports the Daily Record.

The majority of claimants (9.3 million) receive Basic State Pension payments of up to £169.50 each week, equivalent to £648 per pay period. The type of State Pension a person receives depends on their date of birth. Men born before April 6, 1951 and women born before April 6, 1953 are eligible for the Basic State Pension, while those born after these dates will receive the New State Pension.

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But what happens to State Pension payments when someone dies?

It's a difficult subject and not one anyone would choose to think about, but understanding what will happen could help you or a family member. Here's a quick overview of what you need to know.

State Pension payments after someone dies

When someone passes away, their State Pension claim doesn't automatically cease; there are necessary steps to follow. It's crucial to notify the Pension Service to halt the payments, which can be done by ringing the helpline at 0800 731 0469.

Depending on the National Insurance Contributions of your late spouse or civil partner and when they reached State Pension age, you might qualify for additional payments from their State Pension. For those who haven't yet reached the State Pension age, bereavement benefits may also be an option.

Regarding inheritance and the Basic State Pension, if your spouse or civil partner attained State Pension age before 6 April 2016, GOV. UK advises contacting the Pension Service after a death to ascertain potential claims. You could potentially increase your Basic State Pension by utilising the deceased's qualifying years if you're not already receiving the full amount.

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If you or your deceased spouse or civil partner reached State Pension age on or after 6 April 2016, or if you are below the State Pension age when they passed away, the "Your partner's National Insurance record and your State Pension" tool on the UK Government website can help determine what inheritance you might be entitled to.

For individuals who are single, divorced, or have had their civil partnership dissolved, it's possible for their estate to claim a portion of a Basic State Pension.

If an individual passes away after reaching State Pension age, and if the State Pension had not been claimed, the estate can claim up to three months of the Basic State Pension.

Deferring State Pension payments can lead to increased payments when they are eventually claimed, by around £600 each year, for those who choose to continue working after reaching State Pension age.

According to GOV. UK, anyone who has topped up their State Pension may have some or all of the top-up inherited by their spouse or civil partner.

An extra payment on top of the new State Pension may be inherited by a person if they are widowed. However, nothing can be inherited if they remarry or form a new civil partnership before reaching State Pension age.

If a marriage or civil partnership began before April 6, 2016, and one of the following circumstances applies, then a person may inherit part of their deceased partner's Additional State Pension.

Half of a partner's protected payment will be inherited by a person if their marriage or civil partnership with them began before April 6, 2016, and their State Pension age is on or after April 6, 2016, or they died on or after April 6, 2016. This payment will be made with the State Pension.

If your partner has passed away, you may be entitled to inherit part or all of their additional State Pension or lump sum. This applies if they were deferring their State Pension or had begun claiming it after deferral, reached State Pension age before 6 April 2016, and were married or in a civil partnership at the time of their death.

You can calculate how much you could receive by checking your State Pension on the GOV. UK website.