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What happens to your pension when you die

The NHS Pension Scheme provides members with life assurance cover and lump sum benefits that can help to look after your loved ones after you’re gone.

As a pensioner member, your family or someone you have nominated may be eligible to receive a dependant’s pension or a lump sum in the event of your death.

We call these people ‘eligible dependants’.

Eligible dependants

An eligible dependant could be:

  • a nominee
  • an adult dependant
  • a dependant child


This is the person you’ve nominated to receive your pension benefits in the event of your death.

Adult dependant

This is your legal spouse, registered civil partner or qualifying scheme partner.

A dependant child

This is a child, or children, who is dependent on you.

This does not have to be your own child or children. It can include a number of other possible child dependants.

Read our Survivor's Guide (PDF: 283KB) for more information.


How much will they receive

The benefits that will be payable will depend on which NHS Pension Scheme you are a member of and your circumstances at the time of your death.

Your original award letter has details of the pension your dependant’s may receive when you die.

If you would like a more up to date calculation, contact us.

If your Scheme membership started on or after 1 April 2008

A children’s pension may be paid if the child is dependent on you, both at retirement and when you die.

The child must be, either:

  • under the age of 23
  • aged 23 or over and incapable of earning a living due to permanent physical or mental illness they have when you die

If your Scheme membership ended before 1 April 2008

A children’s pension may be paid if the child is dependent on you, both at retirement and when you die.

The child must be either:

  • under the age of 17
  • under the age of 23 and in full time education

The child in full time education may be eligible for children’s pension beyond their 23rd birthday if their parent’s NHS pension deemed date pre-dates 6 April 2006.

If a child takes a gap year from full time education, their pension will stop for this period.

The parent or guardian of the child must let us know that they intend to take a gap year and return to their studies after this time.

We’ll need proof that they’ve returned to full time education before the pension can be put back into payment.

The pension may still be payable if the child has been accepted for either:

  • an apprenticeship
  • vocational training
  • an internship

The pension may be subject to the child earnings cap. We’ll need confirmation from their work placement of their start date and earnings.

Overpayments may happen if the parent or guardian of the child doesn’t let us know about a change in their circumstances.  All overpayments must be repaid.


Tell us who you want to receive your benefits 

You can nominate someone to receive any pension benefits that may be payable when you die.

You can find more detail on our nominations page.

If you want your spouse or registered civil partner to receive all of your adult dependant’s pension and lump sum benefits when you die, you don’t need to nominate them. They will receive these benefits unless you have previously nominated someone else to receive them.

If you have previously nominated someone, they’ll receive any benefits even if your circumstances subsequently change. For example, if you later get married.

You can also choose to cancel or change a previous nomination by completing a new nomination form.

Finding more information

Read our Survivor's Guide (PDF: 283KB) for information about the lump sum payable on death and pension payable. This includes information about adult dependant’s pensions and child dependant’s pensions.

We also have information on how to let us know that a pensioner member has died.

Forms you may need

If you want to nominate someone, you can find the forms you need on our nominations page.