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Can I inherit state pension from either of my two late wives?

Retirement finances: I was sadly widowed twice but never inherited a state pension from my late wives (Stock Image)

I am 81 years old and I receive the old state pension.

My first wife died in 2003 at the age of 59 and sadly that was a few months before her 60th birthday and when she would then have been able to claim her state pension.

I remember her expecting a reduced pension as she had paid a lower national insurance ‘stamp’ when we first married.

Retirement finances: I was sadly widowed twice but never inherited a state pension from my late wives (Stock Image)

Retirement finances: I was sadly widowed twice but never inherited a state pension from my late wives (Stock Image)

I was wondering if I was (or still would be) eligible to inherit my late wife’s state pension given that she didn’t receive any payments prior to her death?

I remarried in 2020 but unfortunately my wife died a few months later at the age of 77. She also received an old-fashioned state pension.

I also wonder if I should have been entitled to inherit my second wife’s state pension. I would be very grateful for any advice before exploring further with the Department for Work and Pensions.


Steve Webb replies: Please keep in touch. I was sorry to read about the bereavements you faced.

When we talk about inheriting a deceased person’s state pension, we usually think of the amount a widow will receive when her husband dies.

But the old state pension system also allowed widowers, like you, to inherit the state pension after the loss of their spouse, provided they did not remarry before the age of retirement.

Did you miss a state pension lump sum if you were widowed?

This is Money columnist Steve Webb is calling elderly widows who may have missed a retroactive payment when their husbands died to get in touch.

He wants to help people get money that is rightfully theirs and find out if there is a systematic problem that has gone undetected in the government’s massive patch-up exercise for underpaid older women.

Find out if you might be affected and how to contact Steve here.

> Did you lose the state pension if you were a widow on retirement?

I’ll explain here how the rules worked for those, like you, who fall under the old state pension system. (There are some provisions for widowers under the new post-2016 system, but this is much more limited).

There are two main elements to the old state pension system, and each of them can lead to an increase following the loss of a spouse.

The first element is the basic state pension. For a man of your generation, it would have taken 44 years of NI contributions to get a full basic pension.

If for some reason you were short of this amount, contributions from a deceased spouse could be used to top it up to the maximum rate.

It would be fair to say that most men already have a full basic pension and therefore their basic pension cannot be increased any further, but for those who are short, a deceased spouse’s contributions can be used for bring to full amount.

However, your pension would only be increased if your late wife had been entitled to a full pension, based solely on her own full NI contributions.

You mentioned that your first wife paid the reduced “married woman’s stamp” and that those years wouldn’t have helped her build up a full pension.

If, therefore, any pension she would have received would have been purely derived from your record, then that entitlement can no longer be used to supplement your own basic pension.

A more relevant avenue for many men would be the second element of the old system – the additional or earnings-related state pension, known as Graduated Retirement Benefit, Serps or State Second Pension.

Each of these amounts is an additional state pension amount that varies depending on what you earn.

Note however that in some cases a person may have little or no supplementary pension either because they were self-employed (and the NI self-employed only generates a basic pension) or because they were ‘contracted out’ ‘ and that she has built up an alternative pension through a workplace or personal arrangement.

Your first wife may not have had much, if any, additional state pension (due to the reduced stamp payment), although she may have had a small amount of the allowance. phased retirement, built up during the 1960s and early 1970s. You can inherit half of it.

Can I inherit my deceased spouse’s statutory pension?

It’s more likely that your second wife would have had an additional state pension, assuming she paid the “full stamp”.

If so, you can inherit at least 50% of it in addition to your state pension. The exact percentage depends on when your late wife was born, but if she was born around 1943, you would actually inherit 90% of her supplementary pension.

Full details on the additional state pension inheritance rules are here.

If your state pension hasn’t changed when your second wife dies, it’s worth checking with the Department for Work and Pensions.

If you happen to have documents relating to your late wife’s state pension that show she was receiving an additional state pension, it’s very likely that there would be something to inherit.

If a mistake was made, the DWP may have finally found it as part of the massive state pension correction exercise it is undertaking, after This is Money and I revealed errors in large scale.

But I have the impression that initially they did not focus on the case of men who received a 100% basic pension and whose pension was nevertheless wrong because of a missing inheritance.

Once they added this group to the search, the number of cases they have to check increased dramatically, so you could be waiting a long time if you were waiting for them to contact you.

Ask Steve Webb a question about retirement

Former Pensions Minister Steve Webb is This Is Money’s Agony’s uncle.

He’s ready to answer your questions, whether you’re still saving, quitting work, or juggling your finances in retirement.

Steve left the Department for Work and Pensions after the May 2015 election. He is now a partner in actuary and consultancy firm Lane Clark & ​​Peacock.

If you would like to ask Steve a question about pensions, please email him at

Steve will do his best to respond to your message in an upcoming column, but he won’t be able to respond to everyone or correspond privately with readers. Nothing in his answers constitutes regulated financial advice. Published questions are sometimes edited for brevity or other reasons.

Please include a daytime contact number with your message – this will remain confidential and will not be used for marketing purposes.

If Steve is unable to answer your question, you can also contact MoneyHelper, a government-backed organization that offers free pension assistance to the public. He can be found here and his number is 0800 011 3797.

SteveWe get a lot of questions about state pension forecasts and about COPE – contracted pension equivalent. If you write to Steve on this subject, he answers a typical question from a reader here. It includes links to several of Steve’s previous columns on state pension forecasts and contracting out, which might be helpful.

Some links in this article may be affiliate links. If you click on it, we may earn a small commission. This helps us fund This Is Money and keep it free to use. We do not write articles to promote products. We do not allow any business relationship to affect our editorial independence.

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