These are difficult questions at the best of times but much more so when your world has been turned upside down and you are experiencing grief and pain. Some of the financial hardship can be mitigated if you did your estate planning carefully.

Having clarity over wills, funeral arrangements and financial arrangements can ease the hardship, especially if you were the one who looked after the family finances. But many surviving spouses find themselves suddenly confronted with having to manage complicated finances for the first time in their lives.

When we lose a loved one, we aren’t always able to think clearly. Distress can interfere with our ability to make financial decisions in our own best interests, especially if we lack confidence and experience. Fretting about your finances when you are stressed is never a good idea. Most major decisions can wait until the emotional turmoil has settled. As your trusted Financial Planners, we are here for you in your time of need.

We can help you clarify what needs to be addressed now and what can wait, giving you peace of mind that your finances are under control. Leave it to us to handle the detail of looking after your wealth, safe in the knowledge that you are in experienced and sympathetic hands.

When the time is right, we will review your finances with you. We will then work with you to create a financial plan tailored to meet your new life circumstances, helping you to move forward with renewed confidence.

24% of people aged over 65 are widowed

Office of National Statistics, 2018

A British rocky beach landscape

Coming to terms with widowhood

My late spouse handled our finances. What should I do now?

In most partnerships, marriages and civil partnerships there is usually one partner who looks after the money while the other has different responsibilities. As you go through the pain of bereavement, the last thing you want is having to familiarise yourself with a huge amount of complicated paperwork, investment issues and policy documents. 


There are a number of issues that have to be prioritised – such as obtaining several copies of the death certificate and informing, for example, pension providers and mortgage lenders. 


We know how to guide you at the right time, and can help you sort through the process, creating a plan that makes sense of the complexities and ensures that your short-term financial needs are addressed. This will help reduce an unnecessary source of stress at a difficult time.


Other issues, such as reviewing your financial position and devising a new financial plan, which can be designed to maintain or grow your wealth, can wait until you are in a better frame of mind and ready to consider how best to move on with your life.

Am I entitled to my spouse’s private pension?

If your spouse had a workplace pension or a personal pension, then it is likely that you will be able to benefit from it in some way, depending on the nature of the scheme. 


In any case, it is necessary to inform the pension scheme provider or administrator, as soon as possible, of the death of your partner and provide an original death certificate. Investec can help with these matters and can also guide you on how to ensure that your pension arrangements will give you sufficient security and comfort in retirement.

What happens to my partner’s State Pension?

You may be entitled to benefit from your spouse’s or civil partner’s State Pension. If you reached your State Pension age before 6 April 2016 then you can choose to use your late partner’s National Insurance contributions record instead of your own if it is more complete. This could result in you getting a full basic state pension rather than a partial one.


On the subject of State Pensions, widowed wives, husbands or civil partners are eligible to claim Bereavement Support (formerly known as the widow’s pension) from the Department of Work and Pensions within three months of the death. This tax-free benefit is available to everyone regardless of income.


In order to qualify, you must have been bereaved after 6 April 2017 and be under the State Pension age.

Will I have to pay a lot of tax?

One of the benefits of being married or in a civil partnership is that you are not subject to any inheritance tax if your partner leaves their entire estate to you, no matter what the valuation is. If you are not married or in a civil partnership then this exemption does not apply, even if you have been together for a long time.


In the unfortunate event that your partner did not make a will then the laws of intestacy apply. In these circumstances, if you have no children, then you will automatically inherit your spouse’s or partner’s estate. However, if you do have children then the first £250,000 of the estate passes to the surviving partner with the rest then being divided. Half of the remainder goes to the partner and half to the children.

Should I downsize my home?

Making major decisions about moving home is something that is best left until you are feeling calmer and less raw emotionally. You are already going through a huge life-changing experience and you don’t need the additional anxiety and stress of searching for a new home to make things more fraught.


It is also important to be clear about why you are considering a move. Is it a positive decision to make a fresh start and leave behind painful memories? Do you feel pressured by family or friends? Or, are you worried that you won’t be able to afford your current home due to strained financial circumstances?


If your concerns are financial in nature, then talking things over with an empathetic Financial Planner is the best option. They will have a good understanding of the issues and can give you clear-headed advice that results in the best long-term solution for you.

What happens now?

Your income in retirement

There are many questions to consider when it comes to taking your retirement income and a key one is deciding where that income is going to come from, and in what order it’s taken.

Bewildered? Our Financial Planners are here to help.

Let us help you get on with your life

Learn about how we can support you through the difficult times with good advice.

Investec Wealth & Investment (UK) is a trading name of Investec Wealth & Investment Limited which is a subsidiary of Rathbones Group Plc. Investec Wealth & Investment Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and is registered in England. Registered No. 2122340. Registered Office: 30 Gresham Street. London. EC2V 7QN.