How to claim the pension of your departed spouse - Gareth Shaw

Gareth Shaw, the head of Money at which.co.uk, answers the question: I remarried four years after my wife died. Can I claim her pension?

Gareth Shaw

Dear Gareth,

My late wife died about fifteen years ago aged 55. She left school when she was 16 and worked mainly in full-time employment for most of her working life except when she had our son.

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I remarried in 2009, but am I eligible to claim some of her state pension?

John Williams

Gareth says…

I’m sorry for your loss, John. From the information you’ve provided, it looks like your wife was due to collect her state pension at the age of 60 in 2010.

She died under state pension age, which would have entitled you to one of two benefits at the time of death – either Widowed Parent’s Allowance or Bereavement Allowance. You’d have been eligible for the former if you or your wife were receiving Child Benefit at the time of her death, which is a payment to parents of children up to the age of 16 (or under 20 and in an approved form of education or training).

I’m not sure how old your son was at the age of his mother’s death, but if he met the criteria above, you would have been entitled to Widowed Parent’s Allowance until he’d reached the age limit where child benefit is no longer payable. This was £82.05 a week back in 2005.

If that wasn’t the case, you’d have been entitled to claim Bereavement Allowance. This is payable to people aged over 45 and under the state pension age, whose husband, wife or civil partner had died, providing it was prior to April 2017.

This benefit is paid for 52 weeks from the date your wife died based on your age and your wife’s National Insurance record. If, as you say, it was complete for her to qualify for the full state pension, you would have been eligible. The amount you got increased with your age – so if you were 45 at the time she died, you’d have been paid £24.62 a week for a year. If you were between 55 and your state pension age, you’d have got the maximum of £82.05 per week.

If you didn’t claim these benefits at the time, I’m afraid it’s too late – the government states that you have three months to make a claim following your spouse’s death.

I’m making the assumption that you were a similar age to your wife when she died, and that you qualified for the state pension before 6 April 2016. This is key as the rules around inheriting the state pension differ depending on when you reached pension age.

If this is the case, your state pension would be made up of the basic pension and any additional state pension, an earnings-related top-up to your basic pension, you have built up during your working life.

If your National Insurance record (you needed 30 years to get the full basic state pension) was incomplete, your wife’s contributions could help top you up to the full amount. And you may have been able to inherit up to 50% of her additional state pension that she had built up, which would have been payable when you reached state pension age.

These points are, however, moot in your case. The government’s rules on pension inheritance state that if you remarry before you reach state pension age (which means you needed to have reached it before you remarried in 2009), you cannot inherit any additional state pension.

Even then, you cannot inherit your spouse or civil partner’s additional state pension if they died before they reached their state pension age and after you reached yours, unless you’re a woman.

The government publishes all of its guidance on this at gov.uk/additional-state-pension/inheriting.

Gareth Shaw is Head of Money at Which?.

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