State benefits on death
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.
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Notifying government organisations
When someone dies, it may be necessary to let the following government organisations know about the death so they can 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 and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) or Department for Communities in Northern Ireland (DfC) deal with others, such as universal credit (UC) and other social security payments. The paperwork concerning the particular benefit or credit should provide details of who you need to contact. Details about how to contact government departments about a death are available on GOV.UK, including using the tell us once service. You can read more about the tell us once service on our page Bereavement: tax issues on death.
If you claim tax credits 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, HMRC state that 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). You can read more about UC on our page Universal credit.
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.
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 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 (or you can use the tell us once service). 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 which is discussed later in this page.
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.
Other benefits affected by death
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.
Bereavement support payment
With effect from 6 April 2017, ‘bereavement support payment’ replaced bereavement allowance, bereavement payment and widowed parent’s allowance.
So, if your spouse /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.
Bereavement benefits before 6 April 2017
Major changes were made to bereavement benefits in 2017. Which benefits apply depends 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 parent’s 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.
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).
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.
Widowed parent’s allowance
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, 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.
Bereavement benefits for unmarried partners with children
The government has recently changed the law on bereavement benefits, to allow certain claims to be made by unmarried partners of someone who has died where the couple had minor children at the time of death.
The new rules mean that some people may be able to claim for periods of entitlement as far back as 30 August 2018, provided they would have qualified for bereavement benefits at that time. There will be certain tax and benefits interactions of any catch-up payments.
The Childhood Bereavement Network website explains more about the background to this change.
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.
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.
Funeral expenses payments
If you are on a low income and you are arranging a funeral in England or Wales, you may be able to get a ‘funeral expenses 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 expenses 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 nidirect, as the claim procedure is different.
In Scotland, the Funeral Support Payment has replaced the funeral expenses payment.
Families in Wales who have registered the loss of a child under the age of 18 can also receive £500 as a contribution towards funeral costs. You do not have to claim the payment as it will be offered by the Registrar when the death is registered.
Parental bereavement leave/pay
Statutory parental bereavement leave and pay was introduced for employees on 6 April 2020. It allows for a period of up to 2 weeks parental bereavement leave. For statutory parental bereavement pay is paid at the rate of either £172.48 (2023/24) a week or 90% of your average weekly earnings (whichever is lower). There is more information on GOV.UK.
Further help and 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:
- England or Wales: use the facility on GOV.UK
- Scotland: visit the Scottish Government website
- Northern Ireland: visit nidirect
You can find out where to get other help from third party organisations on our page Tax help on bereavement, trusts and estates.
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.
There is more information about benefits, tax and pension after the death of a spouse on GOV.UK.