Can I inherit AOW from one of my two deceased wives?

I am 81 years old and receive old-style state pension.

My first wife died in 2003 at the age of 59 and unfortunately this was a few months before her 60th birthday and the point where she would be able to claim her state pension.

I remember she expected a reduced pension because she had paid a lower National Insurance ‘stamp’ when we first got married.

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

Pension 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 would still be) eligible to inherit any of my late wife’s state pension, since she was not receiving benefits prior to her death?

In 2020 I got married again but unfortunately my wife died a few months later at the age of 77. She also received a retirement pension.

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


Steve Webb replies: Thank you for reaching out. I am sorry to read about the bereavement you experienced.

When we talk about inheriting a state pension from someone who has passed away, we often think of how much a widow gets when her husband dies.

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

Did you miss out on an AOW benefit if you were a widower?

This is Money columnist Steve Webb is urging elderly widows who may have missed a back 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’s a systemic problem that hasn’t been picked up in the government’s massive correction exercise for older women who were underpaid.

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

> Will you miss out on AOW if you became a widow on retirement?

I will explain here how the rules worked for those, like you, who are covered by the old state pension scheme. (There is provision for widowers under the new system after 2016, but this is much more limited).

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

The first element is the AOW base. For a man of your generation, you would have needed 44 years of NI contributions to get a full basic pension.

Should you be short of this for any reason, contributions from a deceased spouse can 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 so their basic pension cannot be increased any further, but for those who fall short, a deceased spouse’s contributions can be used to pay them up to the full amount. to get.

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

You said that your first wife paid the reduced “married woman’s stamp,” and that those years would not have helped her build up her own pension.

If, as a result, any pension she would have received would have been derived purely from your administration, then that entitlement cannot now 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 supplemental or means-tested state pension, also known as Graduated Retirement Benefit, Serps or State Second Pension.

These are all additional AOW amounts that vary depending on what you earn.

Note, however, that in some cases an individual may have little or no supplementary pension, either because they were self-employed (and self-employed NI only generates basic pension) or because they were ‘outsourced’ and accrued an alternative pension through a workplace or personal arrangement.

Your first wife may not have had much, if any, supplemental state pension (due to paying the reduced stamp), although she may have had a small amount of Graduated Retirement Benefit accrued in the 1960s and early 1970s. You can inherit half of this.

Can I inherit my deceased spouse’s state pension?

It is more likely that your second wife would have received state pension, assuming she had paid the ‘full stamp’.

Then you can inherit at least 50 percent of this on top of your AOW. The exact percentage depends on the date of birth of your late wife, but if she was born around 1943, you will actually inherit 90 percent of her supplementary pension.

Full details on the rules supplementary state pension are here.

If your state pension does not change when your second wife dies, it is worth it check with the Ministry of Work and Pensions.

If you have paperwork related to your deceased wife’s state pension showing that she received state pension, chances are there is something to inherit.

If a mistake was made, it’s possible that DWP would have eventually found it as part of the massive state pension correction it is conducting, after This is Money and I exposed large-scale errors.

But my impression is that they did not initially focus on the case of men with a 100 percent basic pension, whose pension was nevertheless undeserved due to missing inheritance.

After they added this group to the search, the number of cases they have to check has gone up significantly, so waiting for them to get back to you could be a long wait.

Ask Steve Webb a retirement question

Former Pensions Secretary Steve Webb is This Is Money’s Agony Uncle.

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

Steve left the Department of Work and Pensions following the May 2015 election. He is now a partner at 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 answer your message in a future column, but he won’t be able to reply 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 phone number with your message – this will be kept confidential and will not be used for marketing purposes.

If Steve can’t answer your question, you can also contact MoneyHelper, a government-backed organization that provides free retirement assistance to the public. It can be found here and the number is 0800 011 3797.

Steve get a lot of questions about AOW forecasts and COPE – the Contracted Out Pension Equivalent. When you write to Steve on this topic, he’s answering a typical reader question here. It contains links to several of Steve’s previous columns on state pension and outsourcing projections, which may be helpful.

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