29th November 2017

It can come as a surprise to many people to learn that their pension doesn’t form part of their estate on death. Unlike property, savings and investments which can all be dealt with under the terms of your Will, who gets your pension savings depends on who you nominated when you were asked to complete an ‘expression of wishes’ form by your pension provider.

As it isn’t compulsory to provide beneficiary details and return the form, some people overlook this important step. This can mean a considerable delay in the payment of pension benefits to dependants.

Other complications can arise. If you nominated a previous spouse to receive your pension benefits but subsequently remarry and don’t update the form, then this could mean that your ex-spouse would end up benefitting instead. It could also mean that children and stepchildren may not be provided for.


If on your death the situation isn’t clear, then pension scheme trustees and administrators can carry out their own investigations to decide who should receive your pension benefits. They can consult the Will, contact family, friends and colleagues to establish your personal circumstances. However, this can be a lengthy process.

The best way to guard against your pension savings going to the wrong person is to make sure you keep your pension nomination form updated, otherwise there is no guarantee that the decision reached by your pension company will be what you had intended to have happen.

Pension freedoms

Following the changes to the rules governing defined contribution pensions in April 2015, your pension savings can be passed to anyone you choose to nominate, and that doesn’t have to be your spouse or dependants. In the event of your death before age 75, the money will be passed on free of tax, and if death occurs after age 75, then income tax is payable when your beneficiaries start to withdraw the money, at their marginal rate.

Making life easy for those you leave behind

When completing the nomination form, it’s a good idea to provide the full names of all your intended beneficiaries, so rather than just nominating your children, for example, it makes sense to name them individually. Make sure you have a current copy of your nomination form and keep it in a safe place with your Will and other important documents.