How to claim bereavement benefits

Losing someone you love and coming to terms with your loss is an exceptionally upsetting and difficult experience, which is often made harder if you’re also trying to make ends meet. 

In order to ease this financial burden, it’s a good idea to find out which bereavement benefits you may be eligible for.

Bereavement benefits if you were married or in a civil partnership

You may be able to claim bereavement benefits if your husband, wife or civil partner has passed away. However, the type of benefits you can claim and how much you’re entitled to will depend on:

  • how old you are
  • whether or not you have dependent children
  • whether or not your husband, wife or civil partner paid enough National Insurance (NI). contributions during their working lives.

If you were eligible to claim Marriage Allowance whilst your spouse was still alive (anytime from April 2015) but you didn’t claim it, then you may be eligible to claim up to four years’ worth of backdated payments.

Bereavement Support Payment (now replaces Bereavement Allowance, Widowed Parent’s Allowance and Bereavement Payment).

Bereavement Support Payment may be paid to you if:

  • you are below the State Pension age
  • your spouse or civil partner made National Insurance (NI) contributions for at least 25 weeks during their working life (unless they died as a result of an industrial injury)
  •  less than 18 months have passed since your spouse or civil partner died. The payment is only made for up to 18 months after the date that they passed away – so it’s important to make your claim as soon as possible.

Payments may be paid at one of two rates depending on whether you are responsible for children. 

Rate 1 (standard rate)

If you are not pregnant or receiving Child Benefit, you could be entitled to:

  • £100 a month for 18 months
  • A one-off payment of £2,500 in the first month.

Rate 2 (higher rate)

Bereavement Support Payment is given at a higher rate to pregnant women or those who are entitled to Child Benefit. This means you could get:

  • £350 a month for up to 18 months
  • a one-off payment of £3,500 in the first month.

How do I claim Bereavement Support Payment?

Claims for Bereavement Support Allowance can be made from the date that the person dies – and can be backdated up to three months. So it’s best to make your claim as soon as possible if you don’t want to miss out on any payments.

If you think you may be eligible, you can make a claim via the Bereavement Service helpline or by filling out a form at your local JobCentre Plus.

Bereavement benefits if you and the person who died were living together

Bereavement benefits can only be paid to people who were married or in a civil partnership with the person who died. If you were unmarried then you will not be eligible for this benefit, even if you were living together.

However, you may be able to apply for Universal Credit if you’re living on a low income following the death of your partner.

How will bereavement benefit affect my other benefits?

If you receive Bereavement Support Payment, any other benefits you are getting will not be affected for a year. After this period, the amount that you get from it will be taken into account when considering how much you should receive from any means-tested benefits, including:

  • Universal Credit
  • Tax Credits
  • Income Support
  • Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
  • Carer’s Allowance
  • Incapacity Benefit
  • Carer’s Allowance
  • New-style Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)

If you received your Bereavement Support Payment as a lump sum, then this may fall under the category of ‘savings’ when your entitlement to certain means-tested benefits is being calculated. This will only happen if any of the lump sum is left over after a year has passed and it takes you over the savings limit of £6,000 for means-tested benefits.

If you do cross the threshold of £6,000 then you may see a reduction in the amount you receive from the following benefits:

  • Universal Credit
  • New-style Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Housing Benefit
  • Income Support

If you want to find out more about how any other benefits may be affected, then it’s best to contact the Bereavement Service – run by the Pension Service of the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) – on the following numbers:

Funeral Payment

The average cost of a funeral is £4,300, according to the Government’s Money Advice Service – and that’s before you add any extras extras like flowers or catering for guests after the service.

Sometimes people leave money behind specifically to cover the costs of their own funeral. When this happens the executor of the estate will usually be responsible for paying the funeral bills with this money.

In the event that a person has not made plans to cover the cost of their funeral, a friend or relative will usually pay instead – and will be able to claim back the costs from the estate of the person who has died, if there are enough funds available.

However, if you’re on a low income, and you need to arrange a funeral for your partner, you may be able to apply for Funeral Payment, which could give you up to £700 towards funeral expenses. If your partner leaves you any money, then you’ll usually be expected to then pay back any benefits received through the Funeral Payments scheme.

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