What Happens to Your State Pension When You Die?

November 5, 2023

Ann-Marie Matthews, Legal Advisor at The Beyond Group East Anglia Limited. Today, she’ll be going over what happens to your state pension when you die, and how you can claim state pension if your spouse has died.


The first thing to remind you of here is that there are actually several different types of state pension, and which one you have will affect how you claim it and if you can claim any additional state pension if your spouse dies.

If you were born before April 6th, 1951 for men and April 6th, 1953 for women, you can claim the basic state pension. If you’re born after these dates, you’ll claim the new state pension. There are different rules for each of these kinds of pension schemes.

A big concern for many people is what happens to their state pension when they die. Can it be inherited? Will their spouse get any additional money? The short answer for many who haven’t retired or got married yet is no – the expectation under the new state pension rules is that you and your spouse will contribute separately and withdraw separately.

However, if you were married or reached state pension age before April 6th, 2016, there are a set of different options that may apply, depending on which pension type you have, and when you were married or reached state pension age.

The rules here can be quite complicated. If you’re confused or just want to check what you might be able to get, speak to the Pension Service or an independent financial adviser. They can help you figure out what you’re eligible to receive and how to claim it.

Basic State Pension

If you’re entitled to the basic state pension, then there are a few different ways that your spouse may be able to claim it.

Firstly, if you reached state pension age before April 6th, 2016, then your spouse should contact the Pension Service once you die in order to check what they can claim. They may be able to increase their own basic state pension by using your qualifying years – if they don’t already receive the full amount.

If you reach state pension age on or after April 6th, 2016, or your spouse is under the state pension age when you die, then, again, they’ll need to check with the Pension Service or use this gov.uk tool to see what inheritance they may be entitled to.

With the basic state pension, you may have been able to defer or top it up in order to receive an extra amount. If you’ve done either of these, your spouse will generally be able to claim the deferred or topped up amount.

New State Pension

With new state pensions, you often can’t inherit your spouses pension. You may be able to inherit an extra payment on top of your new state pension if you’re widowed, but this isn’t guaranteed. You won’t inherit anything if you remarry before you reach state pension age.

Your new state pension is based on your National Insurance contributions. You can use this gov.uk tool to figure out how much pension you or your spouse may be able to get and how the inheritance may work.

There are several ways you could have increased your new state pension. You could have paid into an Additional State Pension scheme, you may have protected payments or an extra state pension or lump sum. With most of these schemes, there is some provision for at least part of the extra money to be inherited by your spouse. Check the gov.uk guidance for all the details.

It’s not easy to get your head around state pensions and your entitlement – especially if you’re inheriting extra pension amounts. If you’d like more advice on your pension, contact Ann-Marie on 01603 972525 or at ann-marie@advicebybeyond.co.uk

First published: January 2020; last reviewed: November 2023.