Widow's pension and bereavement allowance

State pension

Widow's pension and bereavement allowance

By Paul Davies

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Widow's pension and bereavement allowance

Learn how widow's pension and bereavement allowance work, and how you can qualify for these benefits.

It's a distressing time when a partner dies, both emotionally and financially. If you're financially dependent on your partner or spouse, you may wonder how you'll be able to get by.

The government does offer some financial support to those who have lost a partner. This comes in the form of the bereavement allowance. It used to be known as the widow's pension. 

This guide explains how bereavement allowance works, and whether or not you're able to claim it. 

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How much bereavement allowance will I get?

The widow’s pension, awarded to widows over age 45, was replaced by the bereavement allowance in 2001. 

The bereavement allowance is given to widows, widowers or surviving civil partners over age 45 until they reach state pension age. It is paid for up to 52 weeks. 

The amount you'll get depends on your age at the time of your partner's death, and the overall level of their National Insurance contributions.

It also depends on your age when your partner dies. The younger you are, the less you’ll get. The rates in 2016/17 are as follows:

  • If you’re aged between 45 and 50, you will get between £34 and £73 a week. 
  • If you’re aged between 50 and 55, you’ll get between £73 and £105 a week. 
  • From age 55 to state pension age, you’ll get up to £113 a week.

In some cases, you may get an additional pension on top of bereavement allowance based on your late spouse or civil partner's earnings.

Find out more: What am I entitled to now I'm retired? - learn about all the benefits you're eligible for

Am I eligible for bereavement allowance?

These are the criteria for claiming bereavement allowance:

  • You were aged 45 or over when your partner died.
  • You're under state pension age.
  • Your partner paid National Insurance contributions, or died in an industrial accident or disease
  • You aren't raising children.
  • You haven't remarried/joined a civil partnership.
  • You aren't living with another person as if you're married/in a civil partnership with them.
  • You're not in prison.

Widowed parent's allowance

If you are raising children at the time of your partner's death, you can claim widowed parent's allowance. 

The amount you can claim depends on how much your partner paid in National Insurance. The maximum is £112.55 a week in 2016/17. You can claim widowed parent's allowance until you stop receiving child benefit. 

You can't claim widowed parent's allowance and bereavement allowance at the same time.

Find out more: Applying for probate - learn how probate works and what you need to do

How to claim bereavement allowance

You can download a bereavement benefits pack (form BB1) from www.gov.uk. You can also order one of these packs from your nearest Jobcentre Plus centre.

Once you’ve filled in form BB1, return it to your local Jobcentre Plus. Claims are dated from when the office receives them and can only be backdated by up to three months, so if you delay, you might lose some benefit.

If you remarry or start living with someone, you will no longer qualify for bereavement allowance.

Bereavement payment

If your partner paid National Insurance contributions, their death was job-related, and you were under state pension age when they died, you may be eligible for a bereavement payment. This is a £2,000 tax-free lump sum. 

You can't claim bereavement payment if you were divorced when they died, you’re living with someone else or you’re in prison. You claim the bereavement payment in the same way as the bereavement allowance.

Other bereavement payments

You may be able to claim funeral expenses from the Social Fund if you're claiming certain benefits including income support, pension credit, housing benefit and council-tax benefit. 

If your partner died serving in the armed forces, you may be eligible for the war widow's or war widower's pension. It is based on their pay. For more information on this, contact the Service Personnel and Veterans Agency.

  • Last updated: April 2016
  • Updated by: Paul Davies