Steve Webb: Our pensions agony uncle answers your questions
My husband died in 2008. He was 60, I was 47 and a full-time nurse. He didn’t get a pension and sadly died before pension age.
I never received widows pension as I was apparently too young.
Can I claim his pension when I reach state pension age I am currently 63 and not remarried?
I cannot find his National insurance number but I have his death certificate and our marriage certificate.
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Steve Webb replies: Thank you for your question. I was sorry to read that your husband died before reaching pension age.
The short answer to your question is that you may receive an additional inherited amount on top of whatever state pension you have built up in your own right.
However, a lot depends on your late husband’s work history.
As you may be aware, you come under the ‘new’ state pension system, because you will reach pension age after 6th April 2016.
Broadly speaking, your entitlement under the new system depends largely on your own record of NI contributions.
If you have not already done so, you can use the ‘check state pension’ service on gov.uk to get a forecast of what you are likely to receive in your own right.
However, on top of this, you may be able to inherit 50 per cent of the ‘additional state pension’ which your late husband built up over his working life. (This is often also known as a ‘SERPS’ pension, which stands for the state earnings-related pension scheme).
This is true even though your husband sadly never lived to draw his pension.
If your husband built up rights under the SERPS scheme, which would be based on his paid employment from 6 April 1978 onwards, then you should automatically have half of this pension added to your state pension on retirement.
What I cannot say without sight of your late husband’s NI record, is how big this sum might be, or indeed whether there would be any inheritance at all.
The reason for this is that there are two situations in which your late husband might have built up little or no SERPS pension.
The first would be if he was self-employed. The NI contributions paid by the self-employed helped them to build up an old-style ‘basic’ state pension, but no ‘additional state pension’.
STEVE WEBB ANSWERS YOUR PENSION QUESTIONS
So, if your husband always paid self-employed NI, there would not be a SERPS pension for you to inherit.
The second scenario in which there would be little to inherit would be if your husband was for many years in a ‘contracted out’ company pension scheme.
This would include most ‘salary-related’ pensions offered typically by big companies as well as the pensions offered to most workers in the public sector.
If your husband was in a scheme like this for many years then he would not have been building up much (or any) ‘additional’ state pension.
Instead, his earnings-related pension would have been built up through his occupational pension scheme.
If you, as his widow, are now getting a widow’s pension from such a scheme, then the chances are that there is not much additional state pension to inherit on top.
However, if neither of these things is true – he was not self-employed and he was not in a company pension or similar – then there may well be a meaningful amount of additional state pension for you to inherit.
Probably the easiest way to check for sure would be to ring the Future Pension Centre and ask how much inherited additional state pension you are likely to receive.
Finally, I should explain that I’ve replied based on your specific circumstances – where your husband died before 2016 and where you come under the new state pension system.
The answer would have been different if, for example, you came under the old system or if your husband had died after the 2016 changes.
If other readers have similar questions but slightly different circumstances, I would encourage them to check out the government ‘tool’ which asks a handful of questions about you and the person who died and then gives you a tailored answer based on your individual situation.
You can find this tool: Your partner’s National Insurance record and your State Pension at www.gov.uk.