What is a Widow’s Pension?

The death of your spouse causes emotional distress that can combine with financial uncertainty. Losing a partner can also mean a loss of income, and you might find yourself wondering if you’ll be able to cope financially. It can offer significant relief to know that you can receive financial support through the widow’s pension.

The government offers financial support to people who’ve lost a partner. The support can come in different ways, depending on your circumstances. Widow’s pension or what is now known as Bereavement Support Payment (BSP) is the most common financial support available.

Here is a quick rundown on how the allowance works, who is eligible to apply and how the application process works.

Widow’s Pension, Bereavement Allowance – What do the Terms Mean?

Terminology around the widow’s pension can seem confusing. You can find mentions of a Widow’s Pension, Bereavement Allowance, Widowed Parent’s Allowance and Bereavement Support Payment (BSP). But which of these is in use right now and applicable to you?

The system changed first in 2001 when Bereavement Allowance replaced the old Widow’s Pension. Both benefits were designed to support the surviving spouse or civil partner, operating in slightly different ways. Aside from these systems, you also had the Widowed Parent’s Allowance, which helped surviving parents of small children.

These systems have now morphed into the Bereavement Support Payment. The benefit covers surviving spouses and civil partners, creating a more unified system. The new system has been in place since 6 April 2017.

Do You Get a Widow’s Pension When Your Husband/Wife Dies?

Yes, you are entitled to financial support when you lose a spouse or civil partner due to death. As mentioned above, the official name for the financial benefit is the Bereavement Support Payment.

You can get the payment if:

  • Your spouse or civil partner has died in the last 21 months.
  • Your partner made National Insurance contributions for at least 25 weeks in one tax year, or the death was due to an industrial accident or disease caused by work.
  • You are under State Pension age.
  • You live in the UK or in a country that pays bereavement benefits.
  • You’re not in prison.

You might be eligible for BSP if your spouse or civil partner died more than 21 months ago. For example, the benefit is available in situations where the cause of death was confirmed more than 21 months after the death. For further information on these cases, you can call the Bereavement Service helpline at 0800 731 0469 (for Welsh call: 0800731 0453).

The above applies to situations where your husband, wife or civil partner died before 6 April 2017. If your spouse or civil partner died before this date, you might be able to receive the Widowed Parent’s Allowance or the Bereavement Allowance (previously called the Widow’s Pension).

How Much is the Widow’s Pension in 2020?

The new system has only two different rates. Previously, the widow’s pension could be affected by your age, and the allowance was higher the older you were at the time of your spouse or civil partner’s death. In the current system, you have a higher rate for those who receive child benefits and a lower rate for those who don’t. It’s worth noting that the higher rate is also available to you if you were pregnant when your spouse or civil partner died. You also don’t have to receive Child Benefit – it is enough to simply be entitled to it.

The bereavement allowance rates in 2020 are:

  • Higher rate: £3,500 first payment and then £350 per month for up to 18 months.
  • Lower rate: £2,500 first payment and then £100 per month for up to 18 months.

Your BSP is not affected by any benefits you receive for a year after your first payment. How much in total benefits you receive can change after one year of these pension payments. When you start getting BSP, you should mention it to your benefits office.

If your spouse or civil partner died before 6 April 2017, you would receive the old Bereavement Allowance. As mentioned, the applicable rates would depend on your age at the time of your spouse or civil partner’s death. For example, if you were 55 or above, you’d get £121.95 per week for up to 52 weeks.

How to Claim the Bereavement Support Payment?

Applying for BSP, or widow’s pension is simple, although the process can depend on where you live.

For those living in England, Scotland or Wales, the available options are:

  • By phone: 0800 731 0469 (for Welsh call: 0800731 0453). The phone lines are available from Monday to Friday, from 9.30 am to 3.30 pm.
  • By paper form: the claim form is available online or you can contact your local Jobcentre Plus and have it posted to you.

If you live in Northern Ireland, you’ll be able to apply by phone or via an application form. You can find information on the numbers and where to download the application form on the official Northern Ireland government website.

The international application process is also available by phone. Call the International Pension Centre at +44 (0) 191 218 7608. The phone lines are open from Monday to Friday, 9.30 am to 3.30 pm UK time.

What Happens to Your Spouse or Civil Partner’s State Pension?

How your spouse or civil partner’s state pension is dealt with depends on whether you reached state pension age on or after 6 April 2016. This is when the Government revamped the pension system.

If you both reached state pension age after 6 April 2016, then the surviving spouse or civil partner inherits 50% of any protected pension payment.

In situations where one of you reached pension age under the old system, you might be able to inherit some of the additional income. The surviving person may also be eligible to increase their state pension using the deceased person’s NI record.

If both of you reached pension age before 6 April 2016, you can:

  • Apply for your spouse or civil partner’s NI record to be used to complete your record, if you reached state pension age without remarrying or entering a new civil partnership.
  • Receive any extra state pension they were entitled to in cases where they didn’t claim it when they reached the state pension age.

If your spouse or civil partner contributed towards additional state pension, then you might be able to inherit some of this additional pension.

What Other Bereavement Benefits are Available?

You might be eligible for other types of financial support after losing a spouse or a civil partner. The Social Fund can cover funeral expenses if you are claiming benefits like income support, pension credit, housing benefit and council tax benefit.

If your partner died serving in the armed forces, you might also be entitled to receive War Widow’s or War Widower’s Pension. This allowance is based on your spouse or partner’s pay. More information on the benefit is available via the Service Personnel and Veterans Agency.

The content on pensiontimes.co.uk is for informational and educational purposes only and should not be construed as professional financial advice. Should you need such advice, consult a licensed financial advisor. Any references to products, offers, rates and services from third parties advertised are served by those third parties and are subject to change. We may have financial relationships with some of the companies mentioned on this website. We strive to write accurate and genuine reviews and articles, and all views and opinions expressed are solely those of the authors.

Krista Lomu
Krista Lomu
Krista has been writing about finance for nearly a decade. Based in London, she hopes to turn even the most complicated topics to approachable and interesting for readers. When she's not writing and working with small businesses, she likes to read, watch football and play games - fuelled on by many cups of coffee!

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