Pensions

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Death in service FAQs

Frequently asked questions about the benefits available if you die in service, who they can be allocated to and whether they are taxable as well as answers to queries about child allowance.

What benefits are payable if I die in service?

Irrespective of whether you are a member of the 1995/2008 section of the NHS Pension Scheme or of the 2015 Career Average Revalued Earnings (CARE) NHS Pension Scheme a lump sum is payable if you die in service.

Additionally, if you have a spouse or civil partner, qualifying partner and/or eligible children, dependants benefits will also be payable.

The benefits from the 2008 section and the 2015 CARE scheme are intended to equate to those provided by the 1995 section. However, the benefits payable in respect of widowers/civil partners/qualifying partners are potentially greater from the 2008 section as they are based on all of the member’s service and not just on service from 6 April 1988, as is the case in the 1995 section. 2015 CARE scheme benefits only began from 1 April 2015 at the earliest for those not subject to transitional protection.

 

How much lump sum is payable if I die whilst in pensionable service?

If you are a secondary care doctor in the 1995 section of the scheme, a lump sum payment of twice your actual annual pensionable pay is payable directly to your widow/widower/civil partner/nominated partner in the event of your death whilst still contributing to the NHS pension scheme.

If you are a secondary care doctor in the 2008 section of the scheme, a lump sum payment of twice your actual reckonable pay is payable directly to your widow/widower/civil partner/nominated partner in the event of your death whilst still contributing to the NHS pension scheme.

If you are working part-time the lump sum will be based on your pro-rated pensionable salary and not the whole-time equivalent.

If you are a GP, in either the 1995 or 2008 section, a lump sum payment of twice your average uprated earnings is payable directly to your widow/widower/civil partner/nominated partner in the event of your death whilst still contributing to the NHS pension scheme.

If you are in the 2015 CARE scheme, a lump sum of twice your relevant earnings in the last 12 months or revalued relevant earnings in one of the last 10 years (if higher) is payable directly to your widow/widower/civil partner/nominated partner in the event of your death whilst still contributing to the NHS pension scheme. This amount is payable irrespective of whether you are a secondary care doctor or a GP.

 

If I am working in the NHS but no longer contribute to the scheme am I still covered for death in service benefits?

To receive the above benefits, you need to be an active member of the NHS pension scheme. If you leave the pension scheme, the death lump sum payable will be based on the annual pension you would have received had you retired on the date of death as follows:

1995 section: A lump sum of 3X your annual pension is payable.

2008 section: A lump sum of 2.25X your annual pension is payable.

2015 scheme: A lump sum of 2.025X your annual pension is payable.

 

I am married or in a registered partnership but I do not want this payment to go to my spouse or civil partner. Is there an alternative?

If you do not want the payment to go to your spouse or civil partner you can nominate another person(s) or institution to receive the payment. A form, available from the pensions agencies at the following links, will need to be completed:

If you contribute to

 

I am not married or in a registered partnership but I do have a partner. Can they receive the payment?

If you are not married or in a registered partnership you can nominate your partner to receive the payment. The form can be found at the links detailed in the question above.

 

I am not married or in a registered partnership and do not have a nominated partner. Is there still a lump sum payable?

If you are not married or in a registered partnership and you have not nominated a qualifying partner to receive the payment you can elect person(s) including children or one organisation (including a bank, trustee or firm of solicitors) to receive this payment. The payment will then be paid to the nominees automatically without waiting for Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration.

If no election is made a payment will still be due and the money will be paid into your estate and will potentially be subject to Inheritance Tax.

 

Is the death in service lump sum taxed?

Inheritance Tax is the responsibility of the Capital Taxes Office at HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC). As a general guide any amount paid as an NHS lump sum on death is:

  • not normally included in an Inheritance Tax assessment if a member is married or in a civil partnership and payment is made to the deceased members legal spouse or civil partner as of right
  • included in an Inheritance Tax assessment if the member is single or if it is paid to a nominee or a qualifying nominated partner

In all circumstances, any lump sum must be paid within two years of the date that the Scheme was first notified of the member’s death. After two years the lump sum will be subject to a HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) tax charge of up to 45%.

If the payment causes you to exceed the Lifetime Allowance then the excess will be subject to a tax charge. Please refer to the Lifetime Allowance FAQ for more information on the charges payable.

Whenever a death in service lump sum is payable, the relevant pensions agency will inform your legal personal representative of the amount and percentage of the standard Lifetime Allowance represented by the payment. Your legal personal representative is responsible for notifying this figure to the HMRC if there has been a LTA charge.

Your beneficiary is legally responsible for paying any LTA charge that may be due.

 

I am a Mental Health Officer over age 60 with maximum service. I am not able to continue paying into the scheme but have not yet drawn my pension. Will a death in service lump sum be payable if I die before I retire?

As you have yet to draw your pension benefits a death in service lump sum would be payable.

 

I am a GP locum. Am I covered for the death in service benefits?

If you work exclusively as a GP locum, you will only be covered for death in service benefits if you die whilst contributing to the scheme. Further information is available in our FAQ on ‘GP Locums’.

 

I am a secondary care doctor on a period of authorised leave. Am I covered for the death in service benefits?

If you choose to continue contributing to the scheme during your period of authorised leave then you will continue to be covered for the death in service lump sum for a period of up to two years (the maximum period of authorised leave available).

 

I am on a period of unpaid sickness absence. Am I covered for the death in service benefits?

Yes. Benefits will be calculated as if you had died in pensionable service on the day before your earnings ceased.

 

If I die whilst in pensionable service is a pension also payable to my widow or widower or registered partner?

A widow or widower or registered partner pension is payable in the event of your death in service, in addition to the death in service lump sum detailed above.

The benefits payable from the 1995 section of the NHS pension scheme to a widower/civil partner/nominated partner will only be based on service from 6 April 1988 onwards.

 

I am not married or in a registered partnership but have nominated my partner. Will they receive a pension in the event of my death in service?

In order to qualify for a partner pension your nominated partner needs to meet certain criteria, both at the time of the nomination and at the time of your death in service.

The criteria includes being in a mutually exclusive long term relationship (of at least two years) with financial dependency or interdependency and you will need to have been able to marry or enter a civil partnership had you wanted to. The validity of the nomination is tested at the time of death.

The form to nominate your unmarried partner to receive this benefit is available from the following agencies websites:

If you contribute to

 

I have transitioned to the 2015 CARE scheme but most of my benefits are in the 1995/2008 section. How are dependants benefits calculated?

The benefits described below will only be payable in relation to your service/earnings in the 2015 CARE scheme. The Death in Service payment looks at earnings in the 2015 CARE scheme only. 1995/2008 section benefits are only payable in respect of the ongoing long term dependants pension but will be payable without any enhancement. More details on this can be found in the Scheme Protection document

 

What level of pension is payable to my widow or widower or registered partner or nominated partner?

If you are in the 1995 section, for the first 6 months a payment equal to your actual rate of pay (for secondary care doctors) or the rate of pensionable earnings during the last complete quarter before death (for GPs) is payable.

If you are in the 2008 section, for the first 6 months a payment equal to your actual reckonable rate of pay (for secondary care doctors) or the rate of pensionable earnings during the last complete quarter before death (for GPs) is payable.

If you are in the 2015 CARE scheme, for the first 6 months a payment equal to your rate of pensionable earnings (for GPs this is based on the rate of pensionable earnings during the last complete quarter before death) is payable.

These pensions, payable for 6 months only, are known as the ‘short term’ pension and are only paid if you have been in the NHS Pension Scheme for 2 years or more.

 

Who pays the ‘short term’ pension?

This is paid directly to your widow or widower or registered partner or nominated partner by your employer or Primary Care Organisation on receipt of the death certificate.

 

What benefits are payable after the ‘short term’ pension has finished?

If you have been in the NHS pension scheme for less than 2 years no further pension is payable from the scheme unless you are over the scheme’s normal pension age (state pension age in the 2015 CARE scheme). A pension may, however, be payable from the state.

If you have been contributing to the 1995 section of the NHS pension scheme and you are under the normal pension age of 60, then the pension payable thereafter, known as the ‘long term’ pension, will be based on 50% of the tier 2 ill health retirement pension that you would have received had you retired on health grounds as at the date of death. A tier 2 pension is usually enhanced by 2/3 of your prospective service until your normal pension age and means that the pension will be based on an enhanced amount. If you are over 60, the “long term” pension will be based on your actual pension.

If you have been contributing to the 2008 section of the NHS pension scheme and you are under the normal pension age of 65, then the pension payable thereafter, known as the ‘long term’ pension, will be based on 37.5% (secondary care doctors) or 70/187 (GPs) of the tier 2 ill health retirement pension that you would have received had you retired on health grounds as at the date of death. A tier 2 pension is usually enhanced by 2/3 of your prospective service until your normal retirement age and means that the pension will be based on an enhanced amount. If you are over 60, the “long term” pension will be based on your actual pension.

If you have been contributing to the 2015 CARE scheme and you have more than 2 years’ service in the scheme and you are under the state pension age, then the pension payable thereafter, known as the ‘long term’ pension, will be based on 33.75% of the tier 2 ill health retirement pension that you would have received had you retired on health grounds as at the date of death. A tier 2 pension is usually enhanced by 1/2 of your prospective service until your state pension age and means that the pension will be based on an enhanced amount.

In the 1995/2008 sections and the 2015 CARE scheme benefits for a widow will be based on all of your service.

In the 1995 section of the NHS pension scheme benefits for a widower/registered partner/nominated partner will be based only on your service from 6 April 1988 onwards.

In the 2008 section/2015 CARE scheme of the NHS pension scheme benefits for a widow/widower/ registered partner/nominated partner will be based on all your service.

If you are a secondary care doctor in the 1995 section of the NHS pension scheme the long term pension is based on 50% of the 1/80th benefits payable. In order to provide equal benefits to this the 2008 section pays out 37.5% of the 1/60th benefits payable, and the 2015 CARE scheme pays out 33.75% of the 1/54th benefits payable.

In the 1995 section the long term pension for GPs is based on 50% of the 1.4% CARE accrual. In order to provide equal benefits to this the 2008 section provides 37.5% (70/187th) of the 1.87% CARE accrual and the 2015 CARE scheme provides 33.75% of the 1/54th benefits payable.

The equality of benefits can be illustrated as follows:

1/80 x 50% = 0.00625
1/60 x 37.5% = 0.00625
1/54 x 33.75% = 0.00625

 

Who pays the ‘long term’ pension?

This is paid directly to your widow/widower/registered partner/nominated partner by the relevant pensions agency on receipt of the appropriate application form which is available from your employer/Primary Care Organisation.

 

I am in the 2008 section/2015 CARE scheme and have drawn down my pension. How much pension is payable to my widow/widower/registered partner or nominated partner?

If you are a member of the 2008 section/2015 CARE scheme in receipt of draw down benefits the ‘long term’ pension will be calculated as per the rules for death in service (in relation to your ongoing active pensionable service), and death after retirement (in relation to the drawn down benefits). Please refer to our FAQ on death after pension draw down for more information.

 

What if I die before drawing my pension, whilst in pensionable service, and am over the normal retirement age of the scheme?

If you are over 60 in the 1995 section, over 65 in the 2008 section or over your state pension age in the 2015 CARE scheme and die before you have retired and started drawing your benefits, your widow/widower/registered partner or nominated partner will receive a pension equivalent to half which would have been payable to you had you retired on age grounds at the date of death (if you are in the 1995 section), equivalent to 37.5% (if you are in the 2008 section) or 33.75% (if you are in the 2015 CARE scheme). The benefits are not paid at an enhanced rate.

If you are a member of the 1995 section and die in service, over age 60, a long term pension will be payable to your widow/widower/registered partner/nominated partner.

If you are a member of the 2008 section and die in service, over age 65, a long term pension will be payable to your widow/widower/registered partner/nominated partner.

If you are a member of the 2015 CARE scheme and die in service, over your state pension age, with less than 2 yeas service, a long term pension will be payable to your widow/widower/registered partner/nominated partner even if your service is less than that which is required to preserve a pension.

 

Are benefits payable to my children if I die in service?

If your children qualify at the time of your death they will each be entitled to a child’s allowance.

In order to qualify they will need to be financially dependent on you and be:

  • under age 23,
  • over age 23 but unable to earn a living due to a permanent physical or mental condition present at your time of death.

A child can include your biological child, an adopted child, a step child, a child of your civil or nominated qualifying partner, a grandchild, any dependent child, and a nephew or a niece.

 

What level of child allowance is payable if I die in service?

If you are a member of the 1995 section the amount payable to your qualifying children will depend on whether a widow/widower/registered partner or nominated partner pension is also payable:

  • If a payment is also being made to a widow/widower/registered partner/nominated partner then each child is entitled to 25% of the Tier 2 pension that would have been payable had you retired on health grounds as at the date of death. A maximum of 50% of the Tier 2 pension is payable to two or more children.
  • Where no payment is being made to a widow/widower/registered partner/nominated partner then each child is entitled to a 33.33% of the Tier 2 pension that would have been payable had you retired on health grounds as at the date of death. A maximum of 66.66% of the Tier 2 pension is payable to two or more children.

If you are a member of the 2008 section the amount payable to your qualifying children will depend on whether a widow/widower/registered partner or nominated partner pension is also payable.

  • If a payment is also being made to a widow/widower/registered partner/nominated partner then each child is entitled to 18.75% of the pre-commutation Tier 2 pension payable had you retired on health grounds as at the date of death. A maximum of 37.5% of the Tier 2 pension is payable to two or more children.
  • Where no payment is being made to a widow/widower/registered partner/nominated partner then each child is entitled to 24.99% of the pre-commutation Tier 2 pension payable had you retired on health grounds as at the date of death. A maximum of 49.98% the Tier 2 pension is payable to two or more children.

If you are a member of the 2015 CARE scheme the amount payable t your qualifying children will depend on whether a widow/widower/registered partner or nominated partner pension is also payable.

  • If a payment is also being made to a widow/widower/registered partner/nominated partner then each child is entitled to 16.875% of the pre-commutation Tier 2 pension payable had you retired on health grounds as at the date of death. A maximum of 33.75% of the Tier 2 pension is payable to two or more children.
  • Where no payment is being made to a widow/widower/registered partner/nominated partner then each child is entitled to 22.49% of the pre-commutation Tier 2 pension payable had you retired on health grounds as at the date of death. A maximum of 44.98% of the Tier 2 pension is payable to two or more children.

If you are a secondary care doctor in the 1995 section of the NHS pension scheme the child allowance is based on 25% of the 1/80th benefits payable. In order to provide equal benefits to this the 2008 section provides 18.75% of the 1/60th benefits payable. The 2015 CARE scheme provides 16.875% of the 1/54th benefits.

In the 1995 section the long term pension for GPs is based on 25% of the 1.4% CARE accrual. In order to provide equal benefits to this the 2008 section pays out 18.755 of 1.87% CARE accrual.

The equality of benefits can be illustrated as follows:

1/80 x 25% = 0.003125
1/60 x 18.75% = 0.003125
1/54 x 16.875% = 0.003125

 

When does the child allowance become payable?

If your child is in the care of a widow/widower/registered partner/nominated partner who is in receipt of a short term pension, the child allowance will start from the day after the short term pension ends. This is 6 months after the date of death.

If a widow/widower/registered partner/nominated partner pension is payable but your child is not in that person’s care then your child will receive a short-term pension payable for 3 months, followed by the child allowance thereafter. Please refer to the earlier question covering the calculation of widow/widower/registered partner/nominated partner pensions for information on the calculation of short term pensions.

Where no widow/widower/registered partner/nominated partner is payable the short term pension is payable for 6 months to your child. Thereafter, the child allowance becomes payable. Please refer to the earlier question covering the calculation of widow/widower/registered partner/nominated partner pensions for information on the calculation of short term pensions.

 

Is the child allowance payable for life?

Child allowance payments are payable until your child reaches age 23.

 

My child will not be able to live independently. Can the child allowance be paid for life?

If your child, as result of mental or physical impairment present at the time of your death, is unable to support themselves the child allowance can be paid for life.

 

Is there any way I can provide more benefits to my dependants, through the NHS pension scheme, than those detailed above?

You are able to allocate a maximum of 1/3 of your pension to a dependant which will be payable in addition to the benefits outline above. More information can be found in our allocation FAQ .

You are able to purchase additional pension which can include additional dependant’s benefits. More information can be found in our additional pension FAQ.

 

What happens to any added years/additional pension/AVCs I am purchasing if I die before retirement?

If you die before your normal pension age and have had a contract to purchase added years or additional pension in place for a year or more then the full contract is paid up.

More information can be found in our additional pension FAQ .

Any AVC you may be contracted to purchase will pay out the full accumulated fund.

 

Are dependants benefits index linked?

Yes. They are subject to same rules which apply to individual pension benefits. More information can be found in our FAQ ‘increases to benefits’.