What is the effect of death on state benefits and credits?

Updated on 14 November 2017

When someone dies there are two aspects to consider in relation to state benefits and credits. Firstly, if the individual was claiming any benefits or credits for their household, their death affects those claims. Secondly, certain individuals may be able to claim state benefits and credits as a result of that death. We look at both of these aspects in this section.

Who do I need to tell?

When someone dies, it may be necessary to let the following government organisations know about the death, in order for them to deal with state benefits and credits:

  • HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC)
  • Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)
  • local council

HMRC deal with some benefits, like tax credits, child benefit and child trust fund payments. The paperwork concerning the particular benefit or credit should provide details of who you need to contact. There is more information about how to tell these organisations about a death, including details of the Tell Us Once service, in the section ‘how do I notify a death?’.

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What is the effect of death on tax credits?

If you claim tax credits – or your spouse or partner does – and your child, spouse, or partner dies, you must tell the Tax Credit Office within one month of the death. You can find the contact details on the GOV.UK website. The death will affect the amount of tax credits you are entitled to. Depending on where you live and your personal circumstances, you might have to claim universal credit instead of tax credits.

If you do not let the Tax Credit Office know, you might get too much money and have to pay it back or you might not get all the money you are owed.

You will normally get child tax credit for a short while after the death of a child, usually eight weeks, which could help with extra costs at this time.

There is some information about bereavement and tax credits on our website for advisers, Revenuebenefits 

There is more information on what happens if you do not report a change on the GOV.UK website.

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What is the effect of death on child benefit?

Child benefit can be affected by the death of the child and/or the death of the parents.

Your child dies

If you receive child benefit and your child dies, you must tell the Child Benefit Office as soon as possible. You can find the contact details on the GOV.UK website. You will normally get child benefit payments for a short while after the death, usually eight weeks, which could help with extra costs at this difficult time.

If your child died before you had claimed child benefit for them, you can still do so. You can get child benefit for up to eight weeks’ worth from the date of death. But you will need to make your claim within three months of the date your child died to get payment for the full eight weeks.

There is more information on what happens to child benefit if your child dies on the GOV.UK website.

One or both parents die

If one or both parents of a child die, you may be able to get child benefit if you become the main carer for the child. You must report the death to the Child Benefit Office as soon as possible. You can find the contact details on the GOV.UK website. You must make a new claim for child benefit, if you are not the named claimant on the original claim form. The child benefit stops the Monday on or after the date of death, and claims can only be backdated three months. So, you should ensure that you claim as soon as possible.

If your partner dies and they were the one entitled to receive child benefit, their entitlement will end on the Sunday on or after the date of death. You will need to make a new claim for child benefit. You should do this as soon as possible, as the claim can only be backdated three months.

If you have always been the main carer for the child and your partner dies but you have not been claiming child benefit because your partner would have had to pay the High Income Child Benefit Charge (HICBC), you should ensure that you make a claim for child benefit as soon as possible. You can find more information on the HICBC on the GOV.UK website.

There is more information on what happens to child benefit if one or both parents die on the GOV.UK website.

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What is the effect of death on other benefits?

When someone dies, if they have been claiming benefits, often the relevant government department will cancel the benefits. It may be appropriate in some cases for a surviving spouse or partner to make a new claim for the same benefit, for example, this might apply to child benefit.

When a child dies, any money in their Child Trust Fund account or Junior ISA – including any payments they have received from the government – usually passes to whoever inherits the child's estate.

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Can I claim any bereavement benefits (for deaths before 6 April 2017)?

You may be able to claim certain benefits and one-off payments if you lived with or were dependent on the deceased. There are time limits, so you need to apply as soon as possible. Some bereavement benefits are taxable. If you receive a taxable bereavement benefit, you need to let HMRC know. There are lists of taxable and non-taxable benefits on GOV.UK.

Bereavement allowance – available for deaths before 6 April 2017

If your spouse or civil partner died on or before 6 April 2017 and you were aged between 45 and your state pension age, you might have been eligible to claim bereavement allowance. Bereavement allowance is taxable.

You will get it for up to 52 weeks from the date of death of your spouse or civil partner. The amount you get depends on your age at the date of their death and the overall level of their National Insurance contributions (NIC).

If you claim bereavement allowance and you are also getting other state benefits, it may affect how much you receive. 

There is more information on bereavement allowance, including how to to claim it, on GOV.UK

Bereavement payment – available for deaths before 6 April 2017

If your spouse or civil partner died before 6 April 2017, you may have been able to claim bereavement payment – a one-off non-taxable lump sum of £2,000. 

There is more information on bereavement payment on GOV.UK

Widowed parent’s allowance – for deaths before 6 April 2017

If your spouse or civil partner died before 6 April 2017 and you had at least one dependent child or you were pregnant, you may have been eligible to claim widowed parent’s allowance. You must have also been below state pension age. Widowed parent’s allowance is taxable.

Although from 6 April 2017 onwards there is a new bereavement support payment (see below), existing claimants can continue to get widowed parent’s allowance until they stop getting child benefit. 

The amount of widowed parent’s allowance you get depends on how much your spouse or civil partner paid in NIC.

If you claim widowed parent’s allowance and you are also getting other state benefits, it may affect how much you receive. Widowed parent’s allowance may affect how much you get of the following benefits:

  • income support
  • incapacity benefit
  • jobseeker’s allowance
  • carer’s allowance
  • employment and support allowance
  • universal credit

You will not be eligible if you remarry, enter a new civil partnership or live together with another person as though you were married or in a civil partnership.

There is more information on widowed parent's allowance on GOV.UK

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What is the bereavement support payment (for deaths from 6 April 2016 onwards)?

With effect from 6 April 2017, a ‘bereavement support payment’ will replace bereavement allowance, bereavement payment and widowed parent’s allowance.

So if your spouse or civil partner dies on or after 6 April 2017, you might be able to claim bereavement support payment. It has two different rates – a standard rate and a higher rate, depending on your circumstances.

If you were not entitled to child benefit or were not pregnant at the date of your spouse or civil partner’s death, or do not become entitled to child benefit in respect of a child residing with the deceased immediately before their death – the standard rate applies, so you could get:

  • a non-taxable one-off payment of £2,500; and
  • a non-taxable monthly allowance of £100 – payable for up to 18 months.

If you were pregnant at the time of your spouse or civil partner’s death, entitled to child benefit, or become entitled to child benefit in respect of a child living with the deceased immediately before their death – the higher rate applies, so you could get:

  • a non-taxable one-off payment of £3,500; and
  • a non-taxable monthly allowance of £350 – payable for up to 18 months.

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Can I claim guardian’s allowance?

If you have been made the guardian of a child whose parents have died, you might qualify for guardian's allowance. Sometimes you can be eligible even if one parent is still alive.

This is a tax-free payment and it does not count as income if you are claiming tax credits, income support, income-based jobseeker’s allowance or income related employment and support allowance.

In order to be eligible for guardian’s allowance you must qualify for child benefit.

If you are eligible, you should make a claim for guardian’s allowance as soon as the child comes to live with you. The claim can be backdated for up to three months.

There is more information on guardian's allowance and the eligibility criteria on the GOV.UK website.

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What are funeral payments?

If you are on a low income and you are arranging a funeral, you may be able to get a ‘funeral payment’ to help you pay for the funeral. Any money you get is usually paid back from the deceased’s estate.

You can only get a funeral payment if you meet certain criteria, for example you must claim within three months of the funeral, you must get certain benefits or tax credits, and you must meet the rules on your relationship with the deceased. You can find more information on GOV.UK.

If you have not paid the funeral director, the funeral payment will be paid directly to them. If, however, you have already paid the funeral director, you will receive the funeral payment.

The amount you get depends on your particular circumstances and also on whether the deceased had a pre-paid funeral plan that covers some of the funeral costs.

There is more information on funeral payments, including how to claim them on the GOV.UK website.

If the deceased was normally resident in Northern Ireland, you should follow the guidance on the nidirect website, as the claim procedure is different.

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Where can I find more information?

Your local authority might be able to direct you to sources of bereavement support. Find out what might be available by using the following websites:

You can find out where to get help from third party organisations in our ‘getting help section’.

There is more information on different benefits and credits that you can claim when someone dies on GOV.UK.

There is more information on what to do about tax and benefits when someone dies on the GOV.UK website.

You may also find our section on ‘tax credits and benefits’ helpful.

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