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

Updated on 3 November 2019

Bereavement

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 HMRC within one month of the death. You can find the contact details on GOV.UK. The death may affect the amount of tax credits you are entitled to. If it is your partner or spouse who has died, your joint tax credit claim will end. Now that universal credit (UC) is available across the UK, most people can no longer make a brand new claim for tax credits and so if you need to make a fresh claim for support, you will be expected to claim UC instead of tax credits (or pension credit, depending on whether you have reached your state pension credit qualifying age). There are two exceptions to this rule, which allows a small number of people to make new tax credit claims. You can read about these exceptions in our tax credits section.

If you do not let HMRC 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 difficult 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 GOV.UK.

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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 HMRC's Child Benefit Office as soon as possible. You can find the contact details on GOV.UK. 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 GOV.UK.

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 GOV.UK. 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 from 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. You may also be able to claim guardian’s allowance.

If you have always been the main carer for the child and your partner dies but you have not been receiving payments of child benefit to avoid your partner paying the high income child benefit charge (HICBC), you should ensure that you contact HMRC to resume payments of child benefit as soon as possible. If you stopped your child benefit claim completely or never claimed child benefit, you will need to make a new claim. You can find more information on the HICBC on GOV.UK.

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

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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 or universal credit.

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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What is the bereavement support payment (for deaths from 6 April 2017 onwards)?

With effect from 6 April 2017, a ‘bereavement support payment’ has replaced 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.

You can find more information about bereavement support payment on GOV.UK.

For more detailed information you can look at the notes that accompany the claim form.  

Bereavement support payment is non-taxable. It is not counted as income for tax credits or universal credit, however any amount of the one-off payment left over after 12 months will be counted as capital for UC purposes.

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

Major changes were made to bereavement benefits in 2017. Which benefits apply depending on the date of death of your spouse or civil partner. If they died before 6 April 2017, then the benefits available were bereavement allowance, widowed parents allowance and the bereavement payment. 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 and is counted as income for tax credits and universal credit.

It was payable for up to 52 weeks from the date of death of your spouse or civil partner. The amount paid depended on your age at the date of their death and the overall level of their National Insurance contributions (NIC).

There is more information on bereavement allowance 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. Bereavement payment is not counted as income for tax credits or universal credit but is counted as capital for universal credit. 

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 and is counted as income for tax credits and universal credit.

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
  • tax credits
  • 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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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, universal credit, 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 GOV.UK.

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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. You might have to repay some or all of the money you get, 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 GOV.UK.

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 other help from third party organisations on our Getting help page.

There is a collection of information about bereavement and what to do when someone dies on GOV.UK.

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

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

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