How to access the state pension of a deceased partner - Gareth Shaw

Dear Gareth, I am now 60 years old and I was widowed in 2008. My husband was 55 at the time of his death. Had he lived, he would have been able to claim his state pension last year.

I have not remarried and have no dependent family. How do I apply for what should have rightfully been his state pension? I have lost my job due to health reasons and have been told I am not entitled to benefits. I have some savings and have been told by the Department for Work and Pensions that I am fit for work and will not get Universal Credit.

Ann Harrison, via email.

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Gareth says…

Pension fears

When your spouse or civil partner dies before state pension age, there are benefits you are entitled to at the time of their death. You would have qualified for something called the ‘bereavement allowance’, which entitled you to 52 weeks of payments, with the amount paid based on your age.

That has now changed, with a bereavement support payment made to widows and widowers who are under state pension age, and it is paid for 18 months. You get a one-off lump sum of £3,500 if you are pregnant or claim child benefit, followed by £350 for 18 months; or you get a lump sum of £2,500 followed by £100 per month if you don’t qualify for the higher payment.

Your husband was born in 1953, which means he would have qualified for his state pension in 2018, at the age of 65. You were born in 1960, which means you are part of the group of people whose pension age is gradually increasing to 67.

That is an awfully long time to go without any income, especially since you say you cannot work due to poor health.

Pension fears

So let’s look at what you could get from your husband’s state pension. He would have qualified for the new state pension, which merges the basic state pension and any additional state pension you would have built up in the old system. This changed for those reaching state pension age on or after April 6, 2016.

The ‘full’ new state pension is currently £175.20 a week, which you’ll get if you have a 35-year record of National Insurance contributions. Your husband had 37, from the information you provided to me. However, the reality is that few people actually get this amount.

They get more if the amount of state pension they would have got under the old system was higher. But they’ll get less if they ever spent time ‘contracted out’ of the additional state pension. This saw you paying a lower amount of National Insurance in order to receive a higher private pension.

Under the Government’s rules, you can inherit a proportion of the additional state pension they had built up while they were alive. It’s based on when you and your husband were born, and the type of additional state pension you have. In all cases, you’ll be able to inherit 50 per cent of his extra state pension. This will be added to your state pension when you collect it in 2027.

Concern over pensions is a reality for thousands of people

You haven’t remarried, which means that you are still entitled to this, as those who do remarry lose inheritance of the state pension.

It’s difficult to say with any certainty what benefits you’ll be entitled to. However, from the information you have provided, it might be worth seeing if you can get Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

This pays £74.35 a week initially. After an assessment, if you’re deemed to be incapacitated to such an extent that it is unreasonable for you to work, you’ll be placed in a support group, and get £113.55 per week. Contributory ESA (which means you’ve been making National Insurance contributions over the past two years) disregards any savings you have.

I would suggest speaking with Citizens Advice. It might also be useful to use this benefits calculator offered by an organisation called EntitledTo (