More than half of people don’t know what happens to their pension when they die

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More than half of people don’t know what happens to their pension when they die and now is the time to find out, the Money and Pensions Service (MaPS) says.

  • Only two in five know their pensions would go to their nominated beneficiary.
  • Others incorrectly believe they’d go to their employer, the Government or their next of kin automatically.
  • A fifth don’t know who they’ve chosen to receive any of them.
  • As part of Talk Money Week 2023, MaPS is asking people to “do one thing” and find out who their pension goes to, or risk losing it to someone no longer in their life.

A survey of 2,561 UK adults with a pension, released for Talk Money Week 2023, shows that just 41% correctly said that it would go to their nominated beneficiary in the event of their death.

This leaves more than 26 million pension savers unsure what would happen to their pension or who would receive it.

A fifth (23%) of all those surveyed incorrectly believe it goes to their next of kin automatically, while 11% said they didn’t know. Others thought it would go to the Government (11%), their employer (8%) or their pension provider (7%). 

The data is being released to mark this year’s Talk Money Week (November 6-10), run by MaPS, which is aiming to inspire people to “do one thing” that improves their financial wellbeing.

This year, MaPS is asking everyone with a pension to check their beneficiary to make sure they’ve named the people they want to receive it. Otherwise, they run the risk of loved ones losing out to someone who’s no longer part of their life, such as an ex-partner from years before.

Part of the reason is that the results also show one in five (20%) didn’t know who they had nominated to receive any of their pensions. 

Around half knew who they’d picked for all of them (47%), but 11% said they only knew for “most” and 10% said they did for “some”.

As part of the same survey, respondents were also asked if they’d kept their contact details up to date. Only around three quarters of pension savers said they had for their name (77%), address (75%), phone number (73%) and email address (74%) for at least some of their pensions.

Jackie Spencer, Head of Pensions Policy at the Money and Pensions Service, said:  

“It’s a difficult topic to think about and no one expects the worst to happen to them, but it’s absolutely crucial that we make plans in case it does. People come in and out of our lives and if you have someone you no longer want as your beneficiary, they could end up benefitting at the expense of the loved ones you’ve left behind. These results suggest millions of people are running that risk.

“This Talk Money Week, we’re asking everyone to do one thing and check they have the right beneficiary for each and every pension they hold. This can be done by contacting your pension provider by phone or online and it’ll make all the difference if you pass away early.

“There is free, impartial guidance on what to do and why via our MoneyHelper service and we’re here for anyone who needs us.”

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Notes to editors

  • This survey was conducted among 3,016 people in the UK aged 18+ in October 2023. It is nationally representative.
  • According to the ONS, there are approximately 53.2 million people aged 18 or over in the UK. 
  • Based on this research, we estimate around 45.2 million have a private pension.

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