Expression of wish: what happens to your pension after death?

John Fitzsimons
by Lovemoney Staff John Fitzsimons on 19 November 2012  |  Comments 6 comments

Guest blogger Julie Hutchison of Standard Life looks at an important form that ensures your pension goes where you want it to should you die before retirement.

Expression of wish: what happens to your pension after death?

People often have strong views on who should inherit their estate when they die. They often have even stronger views about who should not.

What they don’t always realise is that some assets are much more straightforward to transfer to loved ones than others. And what might seem like the simplest thing could bring some surprises.

The digital dilemma

For example, the digital files of millions of people now present some real challenges when it comes to how to pass them on. Many different approaches exist.

Take Facebook. It has a policy which gives certain choices about what happens to someone’s page after their death. It can be shut down, or it can be “memorialised”, allowing friends to post and share messages of remembrance. Twitter also has a policy to allow an account to be deactivated when someone dies.

But what if I have a collection of music held on iTunes?  Or hundreds of eBooks on my Kindle?  I could easily leave my CD collection or dusty paperbacks to someone in my Will, but I don’t have the same ownership rights to those digital files. So can I pass them on? 

It seems not. It’s a bit like having a library card which expires when I do – the access rights to those files relate to an individual’s lifetime only.  That’s why Bruce Willis was considering suing iTunes over this inheritance barrier, according to media reports. 

It's easier to direct your pension

Happily, such questions about the digital afterlife don’t arise with your pension fund. There’s something you can do to make sure your wishes are known when it comes to who your pensions savings are passed on to. 

What’s more, improvements are being made all the time and new pension rules introduced last year mean there is now much greater flexibility around how your family can use your pension fund after you’re gone.

If you die before you retire, it is your pension provider who usually determines who will benefit from the pension fund you have built up. As your provider is unlikely to know your family dynamics or preferences, they tend to ask you to complete what is called an “expression of wish” form to help guide them on who you would like to benefit when you die.

You can request a form (also often referred to as a nomination form) from your pension provider at any time.

It is then important that you regularly review your expression of wishes to ensure they continue to match your preferences as your circumstances can change. Then it’s simply a case of sending your provider a new expression of wish form to ensure those you want to benefit from your retirement savings can do so. 

It’s as easy as that.

Julie Hutchison is head of international technical insight at Standard Life

Have you filled out an expression of wish form to ensure your pension goes to the right people?If not, do you plan to? Let us know your thoughts in the comment box below.

More on retirement:

Buying an annuity? You need to act now!

Why it pays to be negative about your pension

What's wrong with income drawdown?

How often should you review your pension?

Snoring can boost your pension by £570 a year

Workplace pensions: what it means for you

Workplace pensions: the alternatives to NEST

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Comments (6)

  • muira
    Love rating 30
    muira said

    hi the democrat..

    ,,hmm..yes a bit like i suspected,,they had the cheek to enrol me in nest,guess where i told them to stick that?..


    this seems to have gone from a possible pension swindle to an nhs underfunding crisis

    i am sure anyone paying tax honestly directly and indirectly for 40years+ will have more

    than put enough in the state system for a pension and operations & healthcare etc

    suspect there are some maybe in or out of the spectrum that do not,and probably never will..

    democratic states,and indeed other types need to filch from sources various

    to fund wars,benefits systems,mp's and their expenses,and whimsical projects,the list is endless

    ex prime ministers seem to gain nicely,,only need to hold the post for 1 week to qualify for a full state pension..and get a nice little very well paid job in europe after..

    should'nt need to trouble the nhs for their care,and should easily make 90..

    Report on 20 November 2012  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • The Democrat
    Love rating 26
    The Democrat said

    The 'usual tosh from the Democrat' referrred to by electricblue was not tosh but a statement of fact. NI contributions have always been intended by the State to pay pensioners by todays' workers. What's more, for many years, GRB, SERPs and S2P gave a little extra for those who contributed more NI conts because they didn't have a workplace pension. It is accepted that if you buy an annuity then that dies with you, but as previously stated, many schemes pay for 5 years in any event. There is nothing whatever to stop the Government adopting the same strategy on SRP (state pension) - at least for those who have contributed most.My point about theft was that after your normal state retirement date, you can defer the SRP. Stealing that accumulated lump sum if you die before claiming it is indeed theft and there is no getting over the fact.

    The waters got muddied by Gordon (the most incompetent Chancellor in British history) Brown when he lumped on an NI 'surcharge' to help the NHS. Just like his usless raid on pension fund income in 1997, where all he 'achieved' was to make countless more thousands of pensioners rely on the state.

    electricblue then rambles on about contributions and users of the NHS for example. Totally spurious. For example, my partner and I educated the two youngest in the family privately saving the state well over 100K. Refund - don't be silly and were we fat cats? Absolutely not, more like the poorest mice in the parish. But our choice. Other folk who could afford to educate their children outside the state prefer foreign holidays and flash cars and so on.

    The basic fact remains if you are to engage society and not turn the tax evasion epidemic into terminal societal meltdown then state revenue collection must appear to the people as demonstrating some sort of equity. State theft is not the answer.

    Report on 29 November 2012  |  Love thisLove  0 loves

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