How to claim death benefits guide

We not only provide pension benefits to our members, we also provide benefits for their loved ones in the event of their death.

This guide provides information about the benefits payable, and answers any questions you may have following the death of a member.

You can find more information on our Forms and Publications pages.

Notify us of a member’s death

It is important that you notify us of a member’s death as soon as possible.

You can do this by completing the relevant death benefit claim form and returning it to us with an original death certificate and original versions of any other supporting documents required.

You can download the relevant death benefit claim form from the Forms page.

If the deceased member was receiving a pension, you will need to tell us so we can stop paying it. This will prevent us from making any overpayments, which we will need to reclaim later on.

To let us know, please contact us.

Civil Service Pensions death benefits

In the event of a member’s death, the following benefits may be payable:

  • a widow’s or widower’s pension
  • a civil partner’s pension
  • a partner’s pension
  • a child’s pension
  • a death benefit lump sum
  • a Widow’s/Widower’s Pension Scheme (WPS) refund
  • payment of any pension that was due to be paid when the member died (also called residual pension)

You can find more information about each benefit, below.

Widow’s/widower’s or civil partner’s pension

In the event of a member’s death, we will pay a pension to their widow, widower or surviving civil partner. If the member was in classic, we will pay the pension to the member’s widow, widower or civil partner for life unless they re-marry, or enter into a new civil partnership.

The amount of pension payable will depend on which scheme the member was in when they died. For more information about the level of pension payable, please read the “Death benefits” section of the relevant Civil Service pension scheme guide, which you can find on the Publications page.

To claim a widow’s, widower’s or civil partner’s pension, you will need to complete and return a Dependant pension claim form. You can download the form from the Forms page.

Please enclose your original marriage or civil partnership certificate with your claim form.

A partner’s pension

If the deceased member was in classic plus, premium, nuvos, or alpha, we will pay a pension to their partner if they were cohabiting in an exclusive and committed long-term relationship. We work out a partner’s pension in the same way as the pension for a husband, wife or civil partner.

To claim a partner’s pension, you will need to complete and return a Dependant pension claim form. You can download the form from the Member Forms page.

Please enclose two forms of evidence of any joint financial arrangements between you and the deceased with your claim. Your evidence must be original, and dated no older than six months before the member’s death.

You can choose two forms of evidence from the following list:

  • joint mortgage/tenancy
  • joint credit arrangements
  • beneficiary of life assurance
  • working family tax credits
  • joint bank account
  • joint savings account
  • council tax

If you are unable to provide any of the above as evidence, you will need to provide other evidence that shows you and the deceased shared joint financial commitments.

A child’s pension

We will pay a pension to a child who was financially dependent on a member when the member died.

An eligible child is either the member’s natural or adopted child, or any other child who was receiving financial support from the member at the time of their death.

We will pay a child’s pension if the child meets one of the following eligibility criteria:

  • they are under 17 (if the member was in classic) or under 18 (if the member was in classic plus, premium, nuvos or alpha)
  • they are between the age of 17 and 23 (if the member was in classic) or 18 and 23 (if the member
    was in classic plus, premium, nuvos or alpha) and in full-time education or vocational training
  • they are unable to work because of a permanent physical or mental impairment

If more than one child meets the eligibility criteria, we will split the pension equally between them.

How to claim a child’s pension

To claim a pension for a child or children in your care, you will need to complete and return a Dependant pension claim form. You can download the form from the Forms page.

You will need to send us original versions of the following supporting documentation with your claim form:

  • a birth certificate or adoption certificate
  • a parental responsibility order or agreement order (if you are applying as a guardian of a child in your care)
  • a letter from an education or training establishment confirming the start and end date of the child’s course (if you are applying for a pension for a child under the age of 23 and in full-time education or vocational training)
  • a letter from the child’s doctor explaining the nature of the child’s physical or mental impairment (if you are applying for a pension for a child in your care who is unable to work due to a physical or mental impairment)

Death benefit lump sum

A death benefit lump sum may be payable in the following circumstances:

  • if a member dies whilst in service
  • if a member dies after leaving service, but before claiming their pension
  • if a member dies within two years of fully retiring (applies to classic members)
  • if a member dies within five years of fully retiring (applies to classic plus, premium, nuvos, and alpha members)

How to claim a death benefit lump sum

If the deceased member has made a death benefit nomination, we will pay a death benefit lump sum to their nominee (if they were in classic) or their nominees (if they were in classic plus, premium, nuvos or alpha).

If you are the deceased member’s death benefit nominee, we will send you a claim form to complete once we have been notified of the member’s death.

If you are claiming as the member’s personal representative because the member did not make a death benefit nomination, you will need to complete a Death benefit claim: one-off payments form. You can download the form from the Forms page.

If you have a Grant of Representation (a Court Order issued by one of the Probate Registries of the High Court, which gives authority to ‘Personal Representatives’ to deal with a deceased’s estate) please enclose the original document with your claim form.

Please note: if we calculate the benefits payable to the deceased member’s estate and the amount is more than £10,000 (or £40,000 where the personal representative is the member’s spouse/civil partner, and they are co-habiting) you or your solicitor must apply for a Grant of Representation before we can pay any benefits due.

You can find information about applying for Grant of Representation on the government website: www.gov.uk

A Widow’s/Widower’s Pension Scheme (WPS) refund

If the deceased was a member of either classic or classic plus, they will have paid Widow’s/ Widower’s Pension Scheme (WPS) contributions during their service in order to make provision for a widow or widower in the event of their death.

We may refund these contributions if:

  • the member was either in classic or classic plus; and
  • was either in service or had left service, but had not claimed their pension; and
  • was unmarried, divorced, or widowed.

How to claim a WPS refund

We will pay a WPS refund to the member’s personal representative (the person dealing with the deceased member’s estate).

To make a claim as the member’s personal representative, you will need to complete the Death benefit claim: one-off payments form. You can download the form from the Forms page.

If you have a Grant of Representation (a Court Order issued by one of the Probate Registries of the High Court, which gives authority to “Personal Representatives” to deal with a deceased’s estate) you will need to enclose the original document with your claim form.

Please note: if we calculate the benefits payable to the deceased member’s estate and the amount is more than £10,000 (or £40,000 where the personal representative is the member’s spouse/civil partner, and they are co-habiting) you or your solicitor must apply for a Grant of Representation before we can pay any benefits due.

You can find information about applying for Grant of Representation on the government website: www.gov.uk

Residual pension

As we pay members’ pensions in arrears, a member may die before we can pay them their next pension payment. If this happens, we will pay any pension that was due to the member to their personal representative.

Please note: if we paid the member’s pension after they died, there may be money owed to us from the deceased member’s estate.

How to claim any residual pension due

To make a claim as the member’s personal representative, you will need to complete the Death benefit claim: one-off payments form. You can download the form from the Forms page.

If you have a Grant of Representation (a Court Order issued by one of the Probate Registries of the High Court, which gives authority to “Personal Representatives” to deal with a deceased’s estate) you will need to enclose the original document with your claim form.

Please note: if we calculate the benefits payable to the deceased member’s estate and the amount is more than £10,000 (or £40,000 where the personal representative is the member’s spouse/civil partner, and they are co-habiting) you or your solicitor must apply for a Grant of Representation before we can pay any benefits due.

You can find information about applying for Grant of Representation on the government website: www.gov.uk

Death benefits and tax

All occupational pension schemes and personal pension arrangements are subject to tax rules. The rules set limits on the following:

  • the amount of tax-free contributions people can make to a pension scheme
  • the maximum amount of benefits that can be paid
  • the way in which benefits can be taken

This section explains how the rules introduced on 06 April 2006 may affect the benefits payable following the death of a scheme member.

Tax on death benefit lump sums

We will need to pay a death benefit lump sum within two years of being told that the member has died (or from when we could first reasonably have been expected to know of the member’s death). If not, it will be treated as a ‘taxable authorised’ payment and may be liable for tax.

See the HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) website for more information about ‘taxable authorised’ payments from pension schemes: www.hmrc.gov.uk

Everyone has a Lifetime Allowance (LTA). The LTA is the total value of pension benefits that an individual can take from all pension arrangements (excluding State benefits) before incurring a tax charge. The LTA does not limit the total amount of pension benefits that an individual can receive in their lifetime.

The Government has set the LTA at a level that means most people are unlikely to pay this tax. However, everyone’s benefits are checked against the limit when a pension or lump sum benefit is taken.

Most people will have a standard LTA of 100%, but an individual may have a higher LTA if they have applied to HMRC for an enhanced LTA. See HMRC’s website for details of the LTA, including rates www.hmrc.gov.uk

Every time a person starts to draw a new pension benefit from a pension scheme, they will use some
of their LTA. If there is no LTA left when their benefit becomes payable, they will have to pay a tax
charge. Please note:

  • a death benefit lump sum payable after the death of a member may count towards a member’s LTA; and
  • any lump sum payments made when a member dies in service or before they become a pensioner
    will count towards a member’s LTA.

If a member with a deferred pension dies before their pension comes into payment, or shortly after their pension comes into payment, we will pay the balance of pension due to be paid during the guarantee period. This is called a pension guarantee payment.

Pension guarantee payments normally count against the member’s LTA, unless the member had elected for it to be treated as a pension protection lump sum death benefit.

If a pension protection lump sum death benefit is paid, the pension scheme will deduct tax at a rate of 45% (unless the deceased member was under age 75 at the date of death) but the lump sum will not count against the member’s LTA. If the pension guarantee payment relates to a pension that was already in payment on 05 April 2006, then no tax is payable.

The member’s personal representative is responsible for determining the LTA tax position. Any LTA tax due is payable by the recipient of a lump sum payment and will be collected from them by HMRC.

What a personal representative must do

If you are making a claim as a deceased member’s personal representative, you will need to contact any pension schemes that the member belonged to, or was receiving a pension from.

The pension scheme administrator will tell you the date and amount of any lump sum benefit paid that will count towards the member’s LTA. They will also tell you how much of the LTA the lump sum has used. The scheme administrator must provide you with this information within three months of the payment.

If a pension scheme pays a lump sum on the death of the scheme member that counts towards the member’s LTA, you will need to find out how much LTA the member had already used up (in total). You can get this information from the member’s pension scheme(s) and they should provide this information within two months from when you requested it.

If the member’s remaining LTA is insufficient to cover payment of any lump sum(s), you must notify HMRC and give them details of the lump sum(s) paid, the scheme(s) that made the payment(s), and the amount on which the LTA tax charge is payable.

Tax rules for members who die aged over 75

Tax rules prevent us from paying a death benefit lump sum for members aged 75 or over at the date of death (unless they were already receiving a pension on 05 April 2006).

If a pension guarantee payment is due on the member’s death, we cannot pay this as a lump sum. Instead, we will continue to pay an annual pension – for the rest of the guarantee period – to the person or people nominated to receive the lump sum. We will make these pension payments annually in advance. See HMRC’s website for more information: www.hmrc.gov.uk