The NHS Death in Service benefits’ facelift

Have you sorted out who would benefit from your death?

Bringing up the subject of your death and who will benefit financially when you are gone, isn’t a conversation you are likely to feel comfortable with!  It’s a subject you should not ignore, especially in light of the recent changes to the NHS Pension Scheme.

Doctors and Dentists: Do you know who will benefit if you die?
Since the Scheme was born in 1948, the world we live in has changed dramatically. For example:

  • In 1948 a quarter of British homes had no electricity
  • Free State education was only provided up to the age of 15
  • The British workforce was almost entirely made up of men*

The NHS Death in Service benefits naturally reflected the society of its era. At this time, your husband or wife were the ONLY people who qualified for any financial support if you died.

In the past, the Death in Service benefits failed to keep up with evolution as our families changed over the years, leaving a gaping ravine between who we all thought of as our family, and who the pension scheme might think of as ‘dependent family’ in the event of our death.

Welcome to the 21st century NHS. The NHS Death in Service benefits have finally changed with refreshing results! Values and outlooks have progressed and become more inclusive relating to our ever-changing modern society.

NHS Pension Death in Service benefits today

Irrespective of which scheme you are a member of – the 1995, 2008 or 2015 scheme – to benefit from Death in Service you no longer need to be fitting the image of ‘the other half’ befitting of the 1940s! You could be:

  1. Widowers
  2. Civil Partners and Married Same Sex Partners
  3. Qualifying Partners: providing a PN1 has been completed. Both partners have to complete the form and it has to be submitted prior to death.

To be considered a qualifying partner, all the following conditions must be satisfied at the date of your death and have existed for a continuous period of at least 2 years:

  • Neither person has a legal partner i.e. a spouse or registered civil partner
  • They are not related to each other in a way which would prevent marriage or registered civil partnership
  • They are living together in an exclusive relationship as if they were husband and wife or civil partners
  • One partner is financially dependent on the other or they are financially interdependent on each other

Essentially ‘qualifying partners’ in the 21st century get the same benefits as other legal partners. However, the qualifying partner does need to be nominated.

So, if you haven’t already completed the NHS Pension Scheme’s nomination of beneficiaries form, I’d do it ASAP. Do it today. Fill in the PN1. Just do it.

So who qualifies as a dependent?

The same criteria for Qualifying Partners is used for pensions being paid out to Widows and Widowers, and Civil Partners.

Dependent children

In addition, dependent ‘children’ can receive a pension until the age of 23 should they meet the criteria. A maximum of 2 children at any time can be supported in this way. Also, younger children will be supported as older ones cease to qualify.

As modern families have evolved, the definition has been updated to include a number of other possible child dependents. This includes not only your own biological children, but also children of a civil partner, adopted children and even a niece or nephew.

See the NHS Pension Scheme’s Survivors Guide for full details. At least 2 years membership must have been completed for a dependent’s pension to be payable.

Increasing your pension and buying life protection

Other recently implemented changes mean you can now buy Additional Pension to increase your NHS pension. You can also opt in or out of buying additional death or ill health pension benefits.

Buyer beware: There are differences across the 3 schemes

Make sure you know which scheme you are in: the 1995 scheme, 2008 scheme or 2015 scheme. There are differences across each regarding Death in Service and Ill Health benefits, particularly how these benefits are paid out.

Broadly speaking, Death in Service is twice your pensionable NHS pay, providing you are in ‘active pensionable employment’.

However, which scheme you are in (1995, 2008 or 2015) and your occupation (hospital doctor, GP, DGP, etc.) determines how this ‘pay’ figure is calculated. See your scheme booklet for full details.

Don’t forget, if you are a locum at the time of death, things are not so straight forward. GP locums: Will you get your death in service benefit? >

So what actually happens to my NHS Pension benefits when I die?

  • If you are working in pensionable NHS employment at the time of your death, your last employer will arrange completion of the appropriate application forms.
  • It is important that someone notifies the Scheme Administrator as soon as possible of your death.
  • The Death in Service lump sum needs to be paid within 2 years of the date the Scheme Administrator was first notified of your death. If not, a tax charge of up to 45% will be deducted from the lump sum payment.

NHS Pension Death in Service benefits: Are they worth it?

These Death in Service benefits remain as valuable as ever. At a time when some medics question the value of their NHS Pension membership, it’s easy to overlook the basics and forget how invaluable the financial support would be for your family if you passed away.

Ensure your loved ones are taken care of by taking them into account when reviewing your protection arrangements. Make sure your family is nominated correctly and don’t forget you can update your nominations easily if your life changes.

It is important financial matters are organised and steps are put in place to reduce the stress of death within the family unit. Getting your head around the NHS Pension Scheme and its benefits is not easy. Your Legal & Medical financial adviser can help make it less painful.

Do you know who will get your NHS Pension benefits when you die? Let us know by adding a comment below.

* Britain since the 1930s 

38 thoughts on “The NHS Death in Service benefits’ facelift

  1. Rita

    Hi my mum worked with the nhs when she past age 73 is she still intiteld to a pay out she was not in the pension

    Reply
    1. Owen Beswick

      Hi Rita,

      If your mother was not in the pension scheme then no pension or lump-sum retirement benefit would be payable. The only payout she may have been entitled to was a standard redundancy payment if she had been made redundant.

      Best wishes,
      Owen

      Reply
  2. Andrew

    Hi,

    I’m trying to work out if I need additional cover or not. Been working for the NHS since 2014 and now earn 37k . If I passed away what monthly pension would this give my husband/child?

    Thanks

    Reply
    1. Owen Beswick

      Hi there,

      Your spouse would receive a lump sum of twice your pensionable income as a lump sum and a pension. The pension would be half of what you are/were entitled to. For as long as your child is financially dependent (up until the age of 23) they would receive a quarter of the pension that you are/were entitled to.

      I hope this helps,

      Best wishes, Owen

      Reply
  3. Owen Beswick

    Hi there,

    He would be entitled to a lump sum in the event that you are still working. In the event that the pension had not been in payment for 5 years, there may be a residual lump sum payable. Your son would only be entitled to an ongoing pension in the event that he was incapable of supporting himself financially as a result of a medical condition.

    I hope this help,

    Kind regards, Owen

    Reply
  4. Steve Fildes

    I am a male and my female partner has a NHS Pension. She is still married to another person. Can she leave her pension to me as she does not want it to go to her estranged husband?

    Reply
    1. Owen Beswick

      Hi there

      Unfortunately, the answer is “no” – she cannot leave the pension to you. Some rules need to be conformed to for a successful nomination of a beneficiary.

      For a nominated qualifying partner nomination to succeed all the following conditions must be satisfied at the date of the member’s death and have existed for a continuous period of at least two years:

      1) Neither person has a legal partner i.e. a spouse or registered civil partner.
      2) They are not related to each other in a way which would prevent marriage or registered a civil partnership.
      3) They are living together in an exclusive relationship as if they were husband and wife or civil partners.
      4) One partner is financially dependent on the other or they are financially interdependent on each other.

      I hope this helps.

      Best wishes, Owen

      Reply
  5. Nadia

    Hi
    I would like to know why the age of the dependent is limited to age 23 years ?
    Does that mean that after this age they are not entitled to the death in service lump sum and who else can be nominated if you do not have a partner ?
    The NHS pension benefits should be updated to reflect the growing number of staff who are single parents !

    Reply
    1. Owen Beswick

      Hi there,

      The dependents pension is limited to age 23 for children, although there are a few exceptions to the rule. We are not in a position to comment as to why they choose age 23. The death in service lump sum is something different and is payable whilst in service and you can nominate a beneficiary.

      In defense of the NHS pension, they have moved with the times, although the speed at with which it moves is not as quick as many would like. You can nominate spousal ill-health pension if you are not married and fit their criteria.

      I hope this helps

      Best wishes,
      Owen

      Reply
  6. Vikki Grimes

    My husband has just passed away at the age of 46. He has been paying into the NHS pension scheme since 2008. His manager has said I will not receive death in service lump sum unless he was contributing to a separate scheme over and above his NHS pension. His TRS shows a suggested sum that would be paid to me. All the information I have read suggests that as long he was paying into the pension scheme I will receive a lump sum. Please can you advise me

    Reply
    1. Owen Beswick

      Hi Vikki,

      May I firstly pass on my condolences, I am very sorry for your loss. You may find the survivor’s booklet that the NHS provides helpful – NHS Pension Survivors Guide.

      I have no idea why your husband’s manager would suggest that no lump sum is payable unless your husband had been in ill-health retired for some time previous to his death. I assume that you know you are entitled to a Spouse Pension and in the event that you have children, they are entitled to a dependents pension (max 2 children covered.)

      If you feel that you need further help do not hesitate to contact us

      Best wishes, Owen

      Reply
  7. Maggie Owen

    Hi, I worked in the NHS for 32years and get a good pension. I am now retired. I am divorced, and would like to know what happens to my NHS pension when I die, I don’t have a partner but have grown up family.
    Thank you for any help you can give me.

    Reply
    1. Owen Beswick

      Hi there

      If you enter into a long-term relationship/re-marry then your new spouse would be eligible to receive up to half of your pension. I am assuming that your sons/daughters are not financially dependent and therefore they would not be entitled to a dependent’s pension.

      If your situation remains as it is then when you die, the pension “dies” with you.

      Best wishes, Owen

      Reply
  8. Maggie Owen

    Many thanks for your reply. People I had worked with told me various things, thank you for giving me an acceptable answer.

    Maggie Owen

    Reply
  9. Joanne guy

    My husband has just died , the HR said he’s entitled to death in service, he’s only been in the pension scheme for 5 years, does it mean he wouldn’t get much ?

    Reply
    1. Owen Beswick

      Hi Joanne,

      Firstly may I say how sorry I am to hear of your husband’s death.

      You are entitled to a death in service lump sum payment. You are also entitled to a pension based on the pension benefits your husband would have been entitled to at the age of 65 (assuming your husband was in the 2015 section of the pension scheme). Therefore, the benefits could be significant. If you have children of a certain age, they are also entitled to a dependant’s pension. I would encourage you to meet a financial adviser – this is a very difficult time, but it is so important that you are aware of what you are entitled to, and then what to do with that entitlement.

      Best wishes & all the best
      Owen

      Reply
  10. Em

    Hi, this is really helpful thank you. Can I clarify – my partner works away for business and so has a studio flat rented near that business. We were living together and still think if our selves as doing so but I’m registered as sole tenant on mine and he on his. Makes sense for council tax and seemed to be reasonable in law. But, does that mean if he is registered at another address I can’t nominate him for the lump sum/dependent pension?

    Reply
    1. Owen Beswick

      Hi there,

      You can nominate who you wish for your lump sum.

      Re: pension – you have to be considered as in a long term relationship which sounds like the case. So I can’t see any issues

      Best wishes, Owen

      Reply
  11. Tony mccoag

    My daughter died in service in 2014 she has along term partner.but did not sign a nomination form .I believe the law has changed now regarding long term partner.they can get a pension and it will be backdated to the the time my daughter died.

    Reply
    1. Owen Beswick

      Hi Tony,

      I am not aware of the ability to backdate a claim/start a claim. As I understand this situation is being looked into at the moment. I’ve attached the link to the NHS Pensions – Survivors Guide which clearly states the rules around nomination (pg 5) which, by the sounds of it, you are aware of.

      Best wishes, Owen

      Reply
    1. Owen Beswick

      Hi Judith,

      The NEST “pot” that you are developing would be paid out to your nominated beneficiary(s) in the event of your death before taking the proceeds. As you have already started to take your “main” NHS pension then there would be no associated Death-in-Service payment.

      Best wishes, Owen

      Reply
  12. Priscilla

    Hi,
    I am a South African citizen living in South Africa. My mother passed on 23 July 2019, she was in service and had contributed to the NHS Pension for over 15 years. She is survived by 3 adult
    Children all living in SA. To
    Date we have been unsuccessful in trying to lodge a claim to the NHS. She had not nominated anyone on her pension.
    What benefits would be available and what is the claim procedure.

    Reply
  13. Martyn

    I have not been working for tge nhs for long (under 5 years) i earn 37,500 a year. I am considering buying extra life insurance but I have no idea what “pensionable income” would be in real terms. Is there a way of finding out exactly how much your loved ones would receive, as if this is at this stage quite measly I will take out something else, but i dont want to over do it.

    Many thanks

    Reply
    1. Owen Beswick

      Hi there,

      I’ve attached The NHS Pension – Survivor’s Guide which gives a good breakdown of benefits payable in the event of your death.

      Your pensionable income is usually shown on your payslip as an annual amount around the top right of your payslip. If you were working and contributing to the scheme at the time of death then this amount would be doubled and paid as a lump sum. This is a rough approximation and I would point you towards pg 7-12 of the survivor’s guide for a full explanation.

      Dependants pensions would also be payable. These are also covered in the same pages.

      I hope this helps,
      Best wishes, Owen

      Reply
  14. Joy Denham

    Hi,

    If I am married does my partner need to satisfy any further criteria (e.g. as qualifying partners do) to receive a death in service payment. For instance, if I am not living with my partner, or if this relationship is not a monogamous relationship.

    Many thanks

    Reply
    1. Owen Beswick

      Hi there,

      Concerning the death in service payment, you can nominate anyone or any organisation. However, it may become subject to inheritance tax if it is not payable to a spouse or registered civil partner.

      Best wishes, Owen

      Reply
  15. Sharon

    I am marrying my long term partner next year however my death in service nominees are my sons. Upon marriage will my ‘husband’ then automatically become the death in service beneficiary or will I have to change this?

    thank you

    Reply
    1. Owen Beswick

      Hi there,

      In my opinion, you would have to change this. The trustees of the scheme, in the event of a claim arising, would see a lack of change as a positive decision made by yourself to not change the nomination, in spite of getting married.

      Best wishes, Owen

      Reply
  16. Suzan

    Hi
    I previously work in the NHS for 25 years and paid into the pension scheme for at least 20 years. I have recently left and now work for the local Aut. What happened to my NHS pension. Will I still be getting a lump sum payment when I am due to retire in about 15 years.

    Reply
    1. Owen Beswick

      Hi there

      It sounds like you will have been a member of the 1995 pension scheme. Therefore, you can access your NHS Pension without an “actuarial” reduction at age 60. You are currently a deferred member of the pension scheme. I’ve attached a link to a scheme membership booklet to help you further.

      Scheme Guide – NHS Pension Scheme

      I hope this helps.

      Best wishes, Owen

      Reply
  17. REBECCA DONNELLY

    IF I DO NOT NOMINATE MY LIVE IN PARTNER OF 6 YEARS ON FORM PN1 DOES THAT MEAN NO ONE GETS MY PENSION? I HAVE 2 GROWN UP CHILDREN NOMINATED FOR EQUAL SHARE OF THE DEATH IN SERVICE LUMP SUM ON DB2.
    ARE THE PENSION AND DEATH IN SERVICE LUMP SUM COMPLETELY SEPERATE, DOES NOMINATING MY PARTNER FOR MY PENSION AFFECT THE AMOUNT OF LUMP SUM THE CHILDREN WOULD GET.

    Reply
    1. Owen Beswick

      Hi there,

      Its always best practice to nominate someone for your pension, otherwise, in the event of death, you leave your intended beneficiary in a situation where he/she has to potentially “prove” a relationship with you so that a pension can be paid

      Nominating your partner won’t affect the payment for the lump sum. But, again, I would ensure that your wishes for whom benefits should be payable to are explicit.

      I’ve attached a link to help you: The NHS Pension – Survivors Guide

      Best wishes, Owen

      Reply
  18. Paul Carruthers

    Hi,
    I wonder if you can help? My mum sadly passed away last month. She was working full time and paying into a NEST pension. Do you know if she’s entitled to death in service and how much NEST pay out? Many thanks

    Reply
    1. Owen Beswick

      Hi, there

      Firstly so sorry for your loss. There is an entitlement to the value of the fund built up but no death-in-service. Sorry.

      Best wishes, Owen

      Reply
  19. REBECCA DONNELLY

    Hi Owen, thank you for the reply,so if I do not nominate my partner for my pension, he is the only one who can then go on to prove a relationship, it doesn’t go to the estate?
    thanks

    Reply
    1. Owen Beswick

      Hi there,

      If you’ve nominated him and the relationship is essentially a long term type relationship (whilst accepting that some long-term relationships/marriages end up being short term(!)) then the lump sum would be payable to your partner NOT your estate.

      Best wishes, Owen

      Reply

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