What happens to your pension if you die, do you know if your spouse will be looked after

My friend lives in Italy, I live in the South of France, we have been friends for almost 40 years. We have lived here for almost 12 years, she has lived in Italy for 11 years.

18 Months ago, my friends husband died, she has missed out on getting her pension twice now since his death, by just 8 days, because of changes to the age of qualification for a British pension. P received bereavement benefit for a year after her husbands death, she was not aware that this benefit is paid only for a year after the death of her husband. P got quite a surprise when she received a letter from the benefit agency to advise her that she would not get anymore benefit. To add insult to injury, this year, they wrote to her to advise that she would not receive the cold weather payment because she does not qualify!

Her husband had been on a good wage, paid in a lot of money to his pension, she her self had worked all her working life up to moving to Italy, they did not have children, and now she is alone in Italy, but does have good friends. P has used up her savings, can't sell her house, because property is not selling in her area. I have been trying to help her by challenging the pensions system, and writing to people. P has been told that in order to get benefit, she must return to the UK, to claim income support!

P does not have any family to go to, she would have to go on the streets and become homeless with her two little dogs. Her home in Italy would be left empty, and her possessions would be at risk.

I wrote to MEPs but only one got back to me, and gave me advice, we started the ball rolling, she was advised to write to the MP for the area in the UK where she last lived. I contacted the MP for her, but she had to write in and give all her contact details. The MP has taken up her case with the department of pensions. We have pointed out that if she stays in Italy and receives her pension, it will cost the benefits agency a lot less than having to find her a place to live, and to pay income support until she qualifies for her pension in around 4 years!

Her MP wrote back to her and advised her to write to the Consulate in Rome, which she did. The MP is waiting for a reply from the benefits agency. The consulate in Rome said that they could not help. This has been going on now for quite some time. Today, I wrote to other MPs with links to the benefits agency, because I think that she is being treated very badly. It really does get to me that between them P and her husband worked for over 40 years each. Never claiming benefit, and paying into the UK tax and Pensions system.

P is now surviving on a small private pension, and a small payment from a private pension from her late husband. The part of her husbands retirement pension that should have given her an income, does not now exist, so what has happened to the money that he paid in to protect her and give her an income? How many more expats have been affected by this situation? How many more expats believe that their spouses will be OK should they die first?

Widows pension does not exist anymore, only bereavement pension, and for one year only after the death of their partner! What is happening to the money that we all thought would pay a pension to the surviving spouse?

I would like to hear from anyone who has been affected by these same rules? We all believed that our pension would be honoured until we die, regardless of which EU country we live in, we have contributed fully in our working life. Why should she have to return to the UK to get any benefit. Especially when other EU members can go to the UK, claim benefit and even send money home for children living in another EU country? My friend P has her dignity, I want to have this brought to the attention of anyone who will listen, my friend has suffered enough, I am very worried for her health and safety. P is very down and depressed. I would like to you to read what she said to me on Monday of this week.

"Hi Moe & JB
As you know this computer is acting up, keeps sticking in saving, well I ran a clean up on the discs, with my heart in my mouth, it didn't come up with any problems. Fingers crossed it might have solved the problem.

61 is only a number and I still think that but the mirror never lies, I look a total wreck great big bags under my eyes, after I spoke to you I sat on the settee and fell asleep for a couple of hours, when I woke up I was freezing. I had something to eat later and feel a bit better now. I just to need to know what's going to happen, then I can get on with my life, now I'm so in limbo. My mind is in complete turmoil, even when I'm having something to eat, (I force myself, everything tastes like cardboard) I look around and the dread the thought of packing everything up, where to store it, where will I end up, what to do with the dogs. I'm not a greedy person but never thought things would turn out like this.

As always thanks for all your love and support, Polxxxx "

I am frustrated at the lack of care from the powers that be, P is living on very little money, this should not happen. I ask how safe are we all, and what could happen to us in the same situation?

Please do reply if you are in the same situation, we need to do something about this, is this what we paid or taxes and national insurance for? Most of us could end up in this situation, More pension changes are on the way in April!

Hi again Elizabeth.

I'm still working so very much 'out and about'. Believe it or not life is very good for me. The difficult bit is having to live here which is preventing me from moving on boh spiriually and physically. I have met a lovely lady and we get on great together. I'm making up for lost time and do the maximum to enjoy myself ! My house is quite big so needs quite a lot of looking after what with the garden etc so I need something smaller to look after.

Yep, a real tragedy as you say but life has to move on. Selling my property would re start my life just as my late wife would have hoped for.

A remote place in Italy with two dogs, sounds great to me. She can put it up on Airbnb. Does not cost anything to try.
Meantime two small pensions will go further than feared.

Courage, just slog on.

Do you have the means to get out and about?

It helps pass the time until healing kicks in.

I am deeply sad about your wife and I have seen how terrible cancer is for the survivors .

It is a family tragedy. You will need more time before you become only yourself again - the man you used to be before you partnered. It concentrate on finding him.
Travel if you can, or even just pretend you will and use your computer skills to research a most amazing voyage. If you cannot afford it do it anyway and also think about how to make money without selling your house.
All the best Peter.

Hi Elizabeth. It helps when the memories are good and I do have great memories of us together in this house since 2005 when me moved in but the majority of memories of seven of the eight years spent together in this place were sad. Watching a loved one deteriorate over seven years of chemo & operations etc was bad, bad for her and bad and maybe even worse for me. I'm not a selfish person by nature and I believe but my committment to my wife was total and I feel drained of energy when think of what we had to go through. This is a lovely property but I feel it's time to move on without forgetting and give myself a break. I understand you words Elizabeth and I think it would have been easier if she had been one of the 'lucky' ones to have passed away after a very short illness but that wasn't the case.

Peter, sad to hear you lost your spouse.
But moving away from memories does not alter them.
Believe me I know I have lived through the grief. It takes a long time.
I travelled non-stop for years, then finally chose to live in the house we’d built together and now only the good memories survive, in every blessed nail, and beam and old sawdust.

Different folks different strokes Suzy. Since I lost my good lady 30 months ago I have been wanting to leave this house and move on, start again etc. Having to remain in this property with it's good and bad memories is difficult and it's preventing me from moving on. The housing market is dead around here so i'm stuck in a kind of 'limbo'.

You friend is too distressed right now to work out her problems.
You are kind to help her with admin/govt affairs.

Can somebody go and stay with her for a few months. Send an au pair. Let her just eat and sleep and buy fresh food with her small pensions.
She needs time. Soon enough to fight the pension company.
Did her husband not have some life ins. Did he not have some small pensions now available
if her house is her main asset then she must use it to create a job for herself. Airb&b comes to mind. People in my villaGe are charging 90euros per night but meantime just let her. Eg out until her brain clicks on again.

It is very very unfair Maureen :-(

Thank you Rachael, yes you are right, I get angry when I hear that other EU members can go to the UK and receive benefit to send home for their wives and children. They have not contributed to anything, and yet people like my friend have been let down by a system that she and her husband contributed to for almost 40 years in her case, and over 40 years for her husband.

Hi Maureen, yes it is a shame that people who do everything "by the book" end up like this. Good luck to your friend, I hope things work out.

Hello Rachael,

my friend has two dogs, she does live in a remote spot, her house is small, there are plenty of rental properties in the town close by, so I do not think that would work for her.

It is sad really that things have come to this, my friend and her husband worked all their lives, never claiming benefit for anything.

Maureen, could your friend let one of her rooms out for a bit of extra cash and company? It could be just what someone is looking for : some quiet lodgings to write for example?

You are right, but the UK has taken in too many people from other countries, and as you say, more people are taking from the pot than people putting into the pot. I know we all live in another country, but we are not taking from the pot here in France, we have brought our pensions with us, and we are contributing to the French economy. The same with the health care here, we pay for that from our UK national insurance contributions, and subscription to a good mutual insurance like most French themselves.

My husband & I have worked all our lives, we have put our children through University, no grants or handouts, we have paid for everything. We have been in good jobs and fortunate never to have had to claim benefit. We have paid a lot of money into the pot. Just like a lot of other British people, my friend and her husband also, they have paid in a lot of money. That you do not mind, but people now are asking "will we ever see our pensions" I know we are all living longer, but then some like my father, retired at 65 and died soon after, who got his pension pot, someone who has lived on benefit all their lives and contributed nothing!

Let's see what happens when people start taking the money from their pension pots in April, what is going to happen to the pension pot then? How will that affect us all down the line?

You expect to get back something from the pot when you retire, but a lot of it goes to help others that have never worked, they have lived on benefit all their lives, and now the influx of people who have come to the UK to make it their home. Someone has to Pay.

I ask my self when people draw money out of the system in April, if they do not look after this money and invest it wisely, how will they live in retirement? Will they be able to claim income support because they have blown their pension contributions?

Athe other issue is that any money we haaid in as ed to pay out to pensioners at the time, we don’t pay into a little pot with our name on it, so the government will be in no hurry to pay out after the entitlement stops…they are chronicaly short of money and as the population ages the number paying in drops in relation to those claiming. This doesn’t help your friend unfortunatly

Hello Katherine, I will keep you informed, we are waiting for a decision from the Pensions department. It is wrong that other EU members can go to the UK and get benefit for family in their own country, but yet UK expats who have worked all their lives and contributed to the system, get no help at all.

My friend does not even have Health care in Italy now, because that died with her husband, and she will not qualify for health care until she has her pension in a few years time! Thankfully she has a very kind doctor.

Maureen, I am very sorry to hear about your friend’s situation and I hope she can come up with a solution. I will have the same problem if something happens to my husband. There but for the grace of God…

Hello Irene, my friend has tried to look for work with the expats in her area, but she lives in a remote area, and anything on offer is not suitable for her age.

She has applied to the Consulate in Rome as directed by her MP, because she has not worked in Italy she is not entitled to any form of benefit from the Italians.

I think your friend is depressed and still grieving for her husband.It must be hard to be left alone when a partner dies but if she's thinking of moving it will make her feel even worse,as she said,her mind is in a turmoil,she needs to decide to stay where she is for the moment and make that her home, she has friends there and knows noone in England.You said she's getting some small private pensions,how small? Money will go further in Italy than in England,and its better to be poor in the sunshine than in the cold.If she's worked all her life she'll get a pension from the UK when she's 65.If the property is paid for she shouldn't need much to live on.Or do as Doreen suggested. I survive alone on a very small pension.

Sorry can't help with the pension problem,I think Irene covered it clearly,but maybe she should just let it go.

Hello Sue, after my friends husband died, she received letters from the UK benefits agency, they advised her on two occasions that her retirement dates had changed, and they also advised her of the dates and cut off points.

Whilst her husband was alive, she received an allowance on his pension entitlement. Now she receives nothing, what I am saying is, she will get income support if she goes back to the UK, this will cost more than her pension payments would have been. Who wants to be homeless at her age, and have to worry about her home in Italy which she can't sell, whilst she is in the UK, homeless.

Under the old widows pension, she would have received an income from her husbands contributions until her own pension kicked in.