Financial support after bereavement

When you lose someone close to you, the pressure on you can be not just emotional but financial too. This is especially the case if that person was the main earner, or if money was already tight. For this reason, there is financial support available from the Government in the form of bereavement benefits (for those under State Pension age) or increased State Pension for those drawing it.

How to apply for bereavement benefits

You only need to apply for bereavement benefits once (with the exception of the war widow/widower pension). Apply through your local Jobcentre Plus, over the phone, by post or online, using form BB1 – you can download it here.You will then be notified of all the bereavement benefits for which you are eligible, and if you become eligible for any more then you’ll be informed. This can save you a great deal of stressful administration at a time when you are still grieving.

If you’re no longer in the UK, the International Pension centre may still be able to help you.

Read on for some more details about the kind of financial support that is available after you’ve lost someone.

Losing a spouse

Did your spouse or civil partner

  • Die before 6 April 2017 AND
  • Pay National Insurance (NI) contributions OR
  • Die from a workplace disease/accident?

If so, you could be entitled to bereavement allowance, a bereavement payment or a widowed parent’s allowance, provided you’re still legally single. You’ll need to inform the Jobcentre if your claim is successful, as it may affect any other benefits you claim.

Bereavement allowance

For bereavement allowance, you need to have been over 45 but under State Pension age at the time of your spouse’s death, and they need to have paid NI Contributions. You’ll receive 52 weekly payments from the date your spouse died, which vary depending on age and circumstance.

Bereavement payment

A bereavement payment is a one-off, tax-free, lump-sum payment for those under State Pension age, if the deceased wasn’t entitled to a State Pension based on their own NI contributions.  It can be claimed up to 12 months after your spouse’s death.

Widowed parent’s allowance

You can claim widowed parent’s allowance if you’re entitled to child benefit and your spouse was the child’s or unborn child’s parent.  It’s based on your spouse’s NI contributions, up to maximum of £117.10 per week, and can still be claimed if you’ve moved abroad.

Bereavement support payment

If you lost your spouse or civil partner after this date, there’s the bereavement support payment. If your partner paid at least 25 weeks of NI contributions you could be eligible, even if you live abroad.

You’ll receive a one-off payment of £3,500 (for those eligible for child benefit) then 18 monthly payments of £350, or £2,500 and 18 monthly payments of £100. You must claim within 3 months of death to get the full amount, but a reduced amount can still be claimed up to 21 months after.

Unlike other bereavement benefits, this won’t affect any other benefits for a year after your first payment, but you’ll still need to inform your local Jobcentre.

Deaths during combat

If your spouse died before 6 April 2005 due to service in HM Armed Forces, or during a time of war, you can claim a War Widow/Widower’s Pension. Specific criteria can be found at gov.uk or by contacting Veterans UK, which is also where you can apply for this benefit. You could claim even if you weren’t married to the deceased but lived as partners, and usually the pension is not affected if you remarry.

Child benefit

If you’ve lost a child, you’ll still receive child benefit for eight weeks after their death, unless your child’s 20th birthday would’ve fallen during this period. You can also still apply if your child died before you’d started claiming, unless they were stillborn.

Tell the Child Benefit Office about the death as soon as possible, even if you’d opted out of receiving child benefit, and they will notify everyone in HMRC through their ‘Tell us Once’ death policy. You can notify them by post, online or over the phone.

If you’re now the main carer of a child after someone’s death, you might be able to claim child benefit. Inform the Child Benefit Office as soon as you can about the parent’s death, including their exact date of death, the fact that you are now looking after the child, and where you’re living. As soon as the parent’s claim is cancelled you can submit your own.

You could also get an additional £17.20 tax-free per week, through Guardian’s Allowance. It’s for carers of a child whose parents have both died (or if they’ve lost one parent and are estranged from the other). To claim, submit the form, along with the child’s birth certificate and their parents’ death certificates, to the Guardian’s Allowance Unit.

Help with funeral costs

A one-off funeral expenses payment can help you if you’re claiming benefits including income support, income-based jobseeker’s allowance, housing benefit or universal credit (a full list is available at gov.uk), provided that you are a parent/carer, partner, close friend or relative of the deceased. The amount is affected by pre-paid funeral plans and money raised from insurance policies and the deceased’s estate, but can help towards burial or cremation fees, funeral director fees, medical certification, funeral travel and the cost of moving the body.

You must claim within six months of the funeral, even if you’re still applying for benefits. To claim before the funeral, you must have an invoice from your funeral director (not just an estimate). 

Pensions

If you’re above State Pension age, you can still access financial support following a death. If your spouse died, you could be entitled to extra pension payments based on their NI contributions. Once HMRC has been informed of the death, they will calculate if you’re entitled to extra payments and inform you of any changes. You could also be entitled to money from any private pensions your spouse held, so check with these companies to see if you can claim anything.