My sister-in-law was married in 2005, to a man who paid full National Insurance contribution dues, thereby earning him a full pension.
He died this week, aged 84, after being confined to bed for nearly three years after a brain bleed. He was married previously, and his first wife died in 1994.
My sister-in-law has now received a letter to say that her pension income will not be increased, even though it is less than a quarter of her late husband’s.
Bereaved wife: My sister-in-law received a letter to say that her pension income will not be increased – is this because she was her late husband’s second wife?
There is no explanation. I have checked many sites but can find no reason for why she is being denied. The only possibility is that her husband was previously married even though his wife died nearly 25 years ago.
As far as I can see, there is no explanation of this on any YouGov website. Is there a rule that a second wife cannot receive any of her husband’s pension?
I would be grateful for any information. My sister-in-law is 80 herself and not in good health, even though she has looked after her husband, with carers, for these three years. Thanks in anticipation.
SCROLL DOWN TO FIND OUT HOW TO ASK YOUR PENSION QUESTION
Steve Webb replies: Thank you for your question. I was sorry to read about your sister-in-law’s recent bereavement.
Your question relates to the rules around whether widows can inherit a state pension, and how this might be affected by the fact that this is a second marriage.
All of these rules (and my answer) relate to the state pension system as it affects people who reached state pension age before 6 April 2016.
After this date, the rules changed significantly and the ability to inherit a state pension was largely (though not wholly) removed.
What are the new state pension rules for married people?
There is nothing in the information you have supplied to make me think that your sister-in-law should not get a significantly enhanced state pension, assuming that there is no dispute over her marital status.
I explain why in detail below, but I would encourage your sister-in-law to ask for a written explanation of why she is being refused an uplift, and would be more than happy to look at it if you wanted to share it with me.
Can your sister-in-law inherit her husband’s state pension?
The first thing that I notice is that your sister-in-law married when her husband was already over state pension age.
Happily, this has no bearing on whether or not she can inherit a pension. What matters is that she and her husband were married when he died, not when they married.
The second thing, as you say, is that your sister-in-law is the second wife of this gentleman. Again, that does not reduce her entitlements.
Provided that they were married at the time of his death, she has exactly the same rights to inherit a state pension as she would if she was his first wife.
If, however, your sister-in-law had previously been married to someone else then her ability to claim a pension based on that husband’s record would cease at the point that she married someone new.
Steve Webb: Find out how to ask the former Pensions Minister a question about your retirement savings in the box below
Interestingly, both your sister-in-law and the first wife of the man who has died (if she was still alive and had not remarried) could in principle both claim for an enhanced pension based on his record of NI contributions.
His NI record could, in effect, support both his second wife and his first wife, and there would be no reduction in entitlement for the fact that two people were deriving an entitlement from a single NI record.
What extra state pension could your sister-in-law be entitled to?
In terms of the amount your sister-in-law could get, there are two components.
The first relates to her basic state pension. From your email, I am inferring that she is drawing less than a full basic state pension, currently £125.95.
If so, I would expect her state pension to be increased to this level based on her late husband’s contributions.
The second relates to any payments the late husband was receiving under SERPS – the state earnings-related pension scheme. Broadly speaking, a surviving spouse is entitled to inherit at least half of his SERPS pension and more if retired some time ago.
Based on the table on the Government website here and on the dates you have given, it seems likely she could inherit up to 100 per cent of his SERPS pension.
If the deceased man did not have much of a SERPS pension this might be because he was a member of a workplace pension and there could be an entitlement to his widow from that scheme as well (or instead).
ASK STEVE WEBB A PENSION QUESTION
Former Pensions Minister Steve Webb is This Is Money’s Agony Uncle.
He is ready to answer your questions, whether you are still saving, in the process of stopping work, or juggling your finances in retirement.
Since leaving the Department of Work and Pensions after the May 2015 election, Steve has joined pension firm Royal London as director of policy.
If you would like to ask Steve a question about pensions, please email him at email@example.com.
Steve will do his best to reply to your message in a forthcoming column, but he won’t be able to answer everyone or correspond privately with readers. Nothing in his replies 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 be kept confidential and not used for marketing purposes.
If Steve is unable to answer your question, you can also contact The Pensions Advisory Service, a Government-backed organisation which gives free help to the public. TPAS can be found here and its number is 0800 011 3797.
Steve receives many questions about state pension forecasts and COPE – the Contracted Out Pension Equivalent. If you are writing to Steve on this topic, he responds to a typical reader question here. It includes links to Steve’s several earlier columns about state pension forecasts and contracting out, which might be helpful.
If you have a question about state pension top-ups, Steve has written a guide which you can find here.