Key facts you must know about your state pension - Jenny Ross

Jenny Ross, of Which?, considers another major personal finance issue.

I am 83 years old and my wife is 84. We celebrated our 60th. Platinum Wedding Anniversary in June last year.

I have just been diagnosed with lymphoma cancer and have turned my thoughts to the future, whatever that may be !!

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I am sure that many of your pension age readers, and others, will be interested in your findings.

Our 4 weekly government pension is as follows :

Myself £ 193.15 [ basic amount : £ 141.85, subject to other adds and minuses ]

My wife £ 90.05 [ basic amount : £ 85.00, subject to other adds and minuses ]

Should I die first , my query is : “ what proportion of government pension benefits will my wife be entitled to receive … over and above what she is already paid “ ?

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Congratulations on a very special milestone. I’m sorry to hear this has been followed by some difficult news.

What happens to your wife’s state pension in the event of your death depends on when you reached state pension age.

As both you and your wife reached state pension age before the introduction of the new state pension in April 2016, the state pension you receive - and the inheritance rules that apply - are based on the ‘old’ system.

The old state pension is made up of two parts: the basic state pension (worth £141.85 a week in 2022-23), and any additional state pension you built up during your career.

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To get the full basic state pension, you need to have 30 ‘qualifying years’ on your National Insurance record - in other words, 30 full tax years during which you paid - or were treated as having paid - National Insurance contributions. (Under the new system, you need at least 10 qualifying years to be eligible for the state pension and 35 qualifying years to get the full amount).

Surviving spouses and civil partners who don’t already get the full basic state pension can use their late partner’s National Insurance record to increase the amount they get - up to the full amount.

In your case this means that if you were to die first, your wife would be entitled to receive a higher basic state pension. You say she’s currently getting around £90, but she would be able to boost that to £141.85 thanks to your complete National Insurance record. If she were to die first, your state pension wouldn’t change as you’re already receiving the full basic amount.

In fact, you say you’re receiving more than that (£193.15), which means you must have built up some additional state pension. This no longer exists under the new ‘flat-rate’ system, but was a top-up to the basic state pension based on how much you earned.

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Your wife would also be able to inherit part of this amount from you - between 50% and 100%, depending on your date of birth. As you were born before 5 October 1939, 90% of your additional pension is inheritable. Based on the figures you’ve shared, this would mean your wife would get an extra £46 a week (90% of £51.30).

To get full confirmation of what your wife would inherit, you can contact the Pensions Service directly by calling 0800 731 0469.

I should stress that the rules around inheriting the state pension changed when the new system was introduced in April 2016, so any readers who reached state pension age after that should bear in mind that inheritance rights are now more limited than in your case.

Under the new rules, it’s no longer possible to use your late spouse or civil partner’s National Insurance record to boost your state pension, but if they were receiving more than the full new state pension (£185.15 a week), you may be able to inherit half this amount (known as a ‘protected payment’).

For anyone who wants to get a better idea of how the rules around inheriting the state pension might apply to them, the government has a handy tool at