Pension Death Benefits – you can take it or leave it!

Those looking to pass on their pension fund received a boost on Monday 29th September 2014 when the Chancellor announced that from April 2015 individuals will have the freedom to pass on their unused defined contribution pension to any nominated beneficiary when they die, rather than paying the 55% tax charge which currently applies to pensions passed on at death.

This means the tax system will no longer penalise those who draw sensibly on their pension fund, making pensions a very attractive wealth transfer wrapper. From next year, individuals with a drawdown arrangement or with uncrystallised pension funds will be able to nominate a beneficiary to pass their pension to if they die.

Death before age 75

If an individual dies before they reach the age of 75, they will be able to give their remaining defined contribution pension to anyone as a lump sum completely tax free, if it is in a drawdown account or uncrystallised.

The person receiving the pension will pay no tax on the money they withdraw from that pension, whether it is taken as a single lump sum, or accessed through drawdown.

Death after age 75

Anyone who dies with a drawdown arrangement or with uncrystallised pension funds at or over the age of 75 will also be able to nominate a beneficiary to pass their pension to.

The nominated beneficiary will be able to access the pension funds flexibly, at any age, and pay tax at their marginal rate of income tax.

There are no restrictions on how much of the pension fund the beneficiary can withdraw at any one time.

Beneficiaries will also have the option of receiving the pension as a lump sum payment, subject to a tax charge of 45% (if the deceased was over 75). The Government intends to also make lump-sum payments subject to tax at the marginal rate (not a flat rate charge of 45%).

Next Step

More detail is awaited from the Government and all eyes will be on the Autumn Statement which is due to be released on 3rd December 2014.

The announcement this week, together with the pension changes coming in April 2015, creates a genuine incentive to save, knowing that family members can benefit from the remaining fund. It means that a pension will become a family savings plan, enabling one generation to support the next.

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