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What is a widow's pension in the UK in 2022?

A partner passing away is, of course, a distressing situation that leaves many wondering how they will cope. As well as the emotional difficulties you face in this situation, you may also be asking how you will be able to support yourself financially. You can find some comfort in the fact that you may be eligible for bereavement support, sometimes known as a widow’s pension, if you were financially dependent on your deceased partner. 

This, of course, brings up all sorts of questions, including “who qualifies for a widow’s pension?” and “how much is a widow’s state pension?”. Here we look to answer some of these questions so you know whether you are eligible, how much you could receive, and for how long? 

What is a widow’s pension? 

The term widow’s pension is in fact slightly outdated, as the benefit referred to as the “widow’s pension” was phased out in April 2001 and replaced by Bereavement Support Payments (BSP). However, you might still hear people using the old term to refer to this. The widow's pension is financial support that you receive after the passing of a partner. Just like other pensions, the widow’s pension was introduced to support people in their elderly years – specifically women who had lost a partner. 

The original widow’s pension was available until the widow turned 65, or they remarried or retired. This is a key difference with the modern Bereavement Support Payment (BSP), which is only payable up to 21 months after your partner passes away, or until you reach state pension age. 

In addition to the difference in length of payment, the Bereavement Support Payment is available to all widowed partners (whether married or in civil partnerships), regardless of their gender. This means that the answer to the question “who qualifies for a widow’s pension?” has changed over time.

How much is a widow's pension? 

Bereavement Support Payment is paid in monthly instalments, and the amount that you receive will depend on whether you have children or not. Those without children will receive up to £100 every month, whereas this amount can increase to £350 if you have children. 

In addition to the regular widow’s pension, UK citizens who have lost a partner may be eligible for a one-off bereavement payment. This is usually a tax-free lump sum of £2500, but this may increase up to £3500 if you have children. Your partner must have paid National Insurance contributions, or their death must have been related to their job. In addition, you must have been under the age of state pension when they passed away. 

If you’re concerned about how much tax you’ll need to pay, then you don’t need to worry about your widow’s pension. UK regulations dictate that this support is tax free, while it’s also important to note that it’s not included in the benefit cap. This means that you don’t need to take this into account when you’re applying for any other means-tested benefits. If you get benefits, Bereavement Support Payment will not affect your benefits for a year after your first payment. After a year, money you have left from your first payment could affect the amount you get if you renew or make a claim for another benefit.

You must tell your benefits office (for example, your local Jobcentre Plus) when you start getting Bereavement Support Payment.

Who qualifies for a widow’s pension? 

Unlike the previous widow’s pension, you don’t need to be over a certain age in order to receive bereavement support payments. However, if you are over state pension age, then you are no longer eligible to receive bereavement support payments. 

There are various criteria that you need to satisfy in order to qualify for bereavement support payments: 

  • You were below the state pension age when your partner passed away and were living in the UK or another country that pays bereavement support. 
  • Your partner paid National Insurance contributions for a minimum of 25 weeks within one tax year since April 1975 or died under circumstances relating to their work. 
  • Your partner must have passed away within the last 21 months. If you do not claim within the first 3 months after their death, then you will not be eligible to receive the full amount. 

As it currently stands, bereavement support payments are not means tested, so if you’re wondering “how much is a widow’s state pension?”, then this only depends on whether you have children or not. You’ll be eligible for the higher rate if you have children that you support. 

The previous system, bereavement allowance, was in effect until April 2017 and awarded different amounts depending on age. Older people received higher payments under this scheme. 

How long do you get a widow's pension for? 

If your partner died after April 2017, then you will be receiving the bereavement support payment. This is paid for up to 18 months after your spouse or civil partner passed away, so it’s important that you claim as soon as possible to avoid missing out. You must claim within 3 months of your partner passing away in order to receive the full 18 payments. 

In addition, you must be below state pension age to receive bereavement support payments. This means that if you reach this age before the 18 months are up, then you will stop receiving bereavement support payments. 

Can a widow claim pension credit? 

Pension Credit is a government initiative that is designed to provide elderly people on a lower income with extra money to cover living costs. To qualify for pension credit, you will be means tested and you must be over the state pension age. In addition, you can get assistance with housing costs such as ground rent and service fees. It’s something that you should factor into your long-term care planning for older age, as it can provide important help to lower income retirees. 

Widows are eligible to claim pension credit just like anyone else. Eligibility is based on your age and income, and you may also receive additional support if you are a carer, have a disability or are responsible for a young person. Widow’s pension and bereavement support have no effect on your ability to apply for pension credit. If you get benefits, Bereavement Support Payment will not affect your benefits for a year after your first payment. After a year, money you have left from your first payment could affect the amount you get if you renew or make a claim for another benefit.

You must tell your benefits office (for example, your local Jobcentre Plus) when you start getting Bereavement Support Payment.

So, in summary, a widow’s pension does not actually exist in the UK anymore but has been replaced by bereavement support payments. However, you might find people still call these payments a ‘widow’s pension’. These payments are made in monthly instalments.

Finally, receiving bereavement support payments does not affect your eligibility for pension credit. In fact, the two are mutually exclusive, since only those above pension age can claim pension credit, and only those below pension age can claim bereavement support payments. 

If you think you might be eligible for a widow’s pension, but aren’t entirely sure, it may be a good idea to speak to a financial advisor. The Private Office can help you understand your options for retirement and provide you with pension advice that is suited to your individual needs and circumstances. Contact us today to see if we can help. 

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Note: A pension is a type of investment, the value of investments can fall as well as rise and you may not get back what you originally invested.