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What happens to my pension
when I die?

Illustration of woman looking at smartphone

Nobody likes thinking about what happens after they die. But it will be quicker and simpler to get the money in your pot to the people and causes you care about if you tell us who you'd like to inherit it.

You usually can't leave pension savings in your will which is why it's so important to tell us. You have two options for how you tell us. 

What happens to my pension when I die?

How to tell us

You can choose an individual, several people, a good cause or a few, or any combination of these to inherit your pot. Who you select is called your beneficiary or beneficiaries.

It’s important you regularly review your beneficiaries to keep their names and detail up to date as your life changes.

You have two options when you tell us how to pay them – making an expression of wish and making a nomination. 

Make an expression of wish

When you choose this option, your pension pot will be paid out under trust law. That means: 

  • your pot won't usually be considered for inheritance tax, as it doesn't form part of your estate
  • we'll take your wishes into account when deciding who to pay your pension pot to
  • we'll consider any changes to your personal circumstances before making a payment
  • you can change your listed beneficiaries at any time
  • you'll no longer be able to make a nomination

John is married to Jamie. John has chosen the expression of wish option and has decided to leave all of his pot to Jamie.

Scenario 1
John passes away before taking his money out of Nest. Because he decided to make an expression of wish, his pot is free from any inheritance tax.

In this scenario we decide to pay the benefits to Jamie, in line with John’s request.

Scenario 2
John and Jamie get divorced. A few years later John gets married to Beth and they have a child, Billie. John dies without updating his beneficiaries. As he made an expression of wish, we ask for all the relevant information about John’s circumstances from his family. This includes details of his current relationship and his children. This helps us decide whether his pot should be paid to Jamie or not. 

In this scenario, we look at the change in John's family circumstances and pay the money in his pot to his estate to be distributed by the executor of his will. The money in the pot would usually be free from inheritance tax.

Older woman looking at smartphone

How to make an expression of wish

You can set an expression of wish by logging in to your online Nest account and selecting 'Add beneficiary'.

Make a nomination

When you choose this option we'll pay your pot only to who you tell us to. That means:

  • your pot will usually form part of your estate for inheritance tax purposes
  • you can update your beneficiaries at any time
  • you can change to making an expression of wish at any time

Mo is in a civil partnership with Alex and they have a child, Kai. Mo has chosen the nominated beneficiary option and has decided to leave 50% of his pot to Alex and 50% of his pot to Kai.

Scenario 1
Mo passes away before taking his money out of Nest. In this scenario we pay out the money in his pot to Alex and Kai because Mo chose to nominate beneficiaries. Also, because he chose to nominate beneficiaries his pot is included in the calculation of the value of his estate for inheritance tax.

Scenario 2
Mo and Alex end their civil partnership. A few years later Mo gets married to Jude and they adopt a son, Rian. Mo dies without updating his nominated beneficiaries.

In this scenario the money in Mo's pot is still paid to his first partner, Alex, and their child Kai. His second partner, Jude, and their son Rian, receive nothing because Mo nominated beneficiaries and we can only pay to the people he had listed on his account at the time of his death. 

Man and woman sitting together talking

How to make a nomination

You can choose to make a nomination from your online Nest account. Simply log in and select 'Add beneficiary' to make your choice.

What if I don’t do anything?

If you don't add beneficiaries to your account, we'll normally have to pay your pot to whoever is appointed to look after your estate. If your pot is £5,000 or less, we may pay the money to one or more of your relatives with some paperwork.

Summary of your options

Choosing an option

You can tell us about your beneficiaries in your online Nest account. Simply log in, select ‘Edit your profile’ and click on ‘Manage your beneficiaries’.

Related content

What to do after someone dies

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Understanding inheritance tax

Unsure how inheritance tax works or if it could affect your estate? MoneyHelper’s guide is here to support you.

A guide to inheritance tax