90% of widows unaware of state aid

Nearly nine in ten consumers are unaware that there is financial help available from the Government should their spouse die, according to new research.

Richard Thomas, executive chairman of Red Arc Assured said "Most bereaved people do not realise they are entitled to any benefit.  Part of the problem is that, understandably, many bereaved people tend to close themselves off, and can only get to learn about the benefit when we, or perhaps a charity, tell them."

41,000 bereaved partners receive benefit payments that can continue for up to 20 years to help them raise their children and cover household bills after losing a spouse.

The main benefit payments that can be claimed are:

  1. Bereavement payment

If your husband, wife or civil partner has died, you may qualify for a bereavement payment which is a tax-free, one-off, lump-sum payment of £2,000.

You will be eligible if you are under the age of 65 and your spouse or civil partner had paid their National Insurance contributions (Nics) or their death was caused by their job.

The payment is mainly paid to people under state pension age but can go to people who have reached state pension age in some limited circumstances. For example if someone is a pensioner but their spouse or civil partners has not yet reached state pension age."

  1. Bereavement allowance

The state pays bereavement allowance to recently widowed spouses and civil partners. If your husband, wife or civil partner dies when you are over 45 but under state pension age you may be entitled to bereavement allowance.

This benefit is paid for 52 weeks after death, the amount you get depends on your age and how much NI contributions the deceased had paid in their lifetime. Maximum weekly payments are £31.79 for a 45 year-old, rising to £105.95 for those between 55 and state pension age.

  1. Widowed parent’s allowance

If you're a parent whose husband, wife or civil partner has died and you have at least one child who you receive child benefit for, you may be able to get widowed parent's allowance (WPA). You may also qualify if your husband, wife or civil partner died as a result of their work – even if they didn't pay NICs.

The maximum basic allowance of the widowed parent's benefit is £105.95 a week. This is a regular, taxable payment for men or women under pension age who have been bereaved and have dependent children (or, in the case of women, if they're pregnant).

If your spouse or civil partner met the NI contributions conditions, the full rate is payable. If not, you receive a proportion, unless they died of an industrial injury or disease.

You cannot be paid widowed parent's allowance and bereavement allowance at the same time. A bereavement payment can be paid in addition to widowed parent's allowance or bereavement allowance.

  1. Who does not qualify?

If you are a cohabitating couple, no matter what the length of the relationship, you are not entitled to bereavement benefits nor will you qualify if you are divorced from your husband or wife when they died, or you and your civil partner had dissolved your civil partnership.

If you remarry or register another civil partnership you will no longer be eligible and your payments will stop. Even if you do not remarry or register another civil partnership, you cannot get bereavement benefits if you live with another partner.

  1. After pension age

Bereavement allowance and widowed parent's allowance cannot be paid after state pension age.

When you reach state pension age, and if you haven't remarried or formed a civil partnership, you'll be entitled to a pension, as long as your late spouse or civil partner satisfied NI contributions or died as a result of an industrial injury or disease. You could qualify for a pension based on your own NI contributions and your spouse or civil partner's record, if that would give you a higher state pension.

To find out more about any of the above you can order a bereavement benefits claim pack (form BB1) in person or over the telephone from your nearest Jobcentre Plus office. 

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