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Bereavement: what to do

Dependants’ benefits

If you die and have dependants, they may receive benefits from your pension scheme.

Dependants’ benefits

The amount that your dependants may receive from your pension scheme if you die depends on the type of scheme that you belong to and whether you are an active member of that scheme.

Schemes may have different definitions for dependants, but they could typically include your spouse or registered civil partner, your children (if aged less than 18 or in full-time education) and anyone else who may be financially dependent on you.

If you die while still contributing to the scheme (active member)

If you’re a member of a defined benefit pension scheme, the scheme will normally pay a pension to your surviving spouse or civil partner. The amount of the pension is calculated as a proportion of the pension that you would have received had you survived to your retirement age, but based on your pensionable earnings at the date of your death.

The scheme may also pay a pension to your dependent children, or other financial dependants, calculated in a similar way, although children’s pensions are usually a lower amount than that paid to a surviving spouse or civil partner. It’s good to remember, that a payment of dependants’ pensions are in addition to any cash lump sum benefits received from the scheme’s life cover. You should look at the scheme information you have been given, or ask the scheme administrator, to find out how much your dependants may receive.

If you’re a member of a defined contribution pension scheme, the scheme will normally pay the value of your pension pot as a tax-free cash sum to your surviving spouse or civil partner and/ or financial dependants if you die.

The lump sum is payable at the discretion of the trustees, although you can tell the trustees who you would like to benefit using an expression of wishes letter (but this is not binding on the trustees). Your dependants can decide how to use the sum that they receive and whether to invest some, or all, of it to provide an income. This sum is paid in addition to any life cover benefits that the scheme may pay.

 

If you are no longer an active member of the scheme, but you have not started to draw retirement benefits

If you're no longer an active member of a defined benefit pension scheme at the time that you die, the scheme may only pay a refund of your contributions, although some schemes may pay a pension to your surviving spouse, civil partner, children and/ or other financial dependants. You should look at the scheme information you have been given, or ask the scheme administrator, to find out how much your dependants may receive.

If you're a member of a defined contribution pension scheme, but are no longer contributing to it when you die, the scheme will normally pay the value of your pension pot to your dependants, as for active members, above.

 

If you have started taking retirement benefits

If you have already started drawing retirement benefits from your defined benefit pension scheme before you die, the scheme will normally continue to pay a pension to your surviving spouse or civil partner, although the amount may be lower than you were receiving. The scheme may also pay a pension to your dependent children and/ or other financial dependants.

You should look at the scheme information you have been given, or ask the scheme administrator, to find out how much your dependants may receive.

If you have started drawing retirement benefits from your defined contribution pension scheme, what your dependants may receive if you die depends on the choices you made when you started drawing your benefits. If you have purchased an annuity, this may include an on-going income paid to your surviving spouse or civil partner.

If you’re drawing benefits using income drawdown, your surviving spouse or civil partner may decide to continue receiving an income or could take a cash lump sum, although this may be taxed.

If parts of your pension pot have not been crystallised, these may be paid to your dependants as a tax-free cash sum, provided you are aged less than 75 when you die.

Your pension provider or scheme administrator can give you more information about this.

 

Frequently asked...

Where can I find out more?

If you need more information, please contact us. A pension specialist from our team will be happy to help with whatever pensions-related question you have. Our help is always free.

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