If a family member who serves in the military dies, you could get help from their unit, the government and some charities too. Below we’ve put together info on what you’ll need to do after their death. This includes how to get the support you need and who you should get in touch with to find out more.
What happens when someone in the military dies
Here are some of the most common questions people ask about what happens when someone in the military dies.
How does the military tell family members of a death?
As soon as the military finds out about the death of someone serving they’ll send a Casualty Notification Officer (CNO) from the Joint Casualty and Compassion Centre (JCCC) to tell the family. Sometimes police officers will come to tell you if they can reach you sooner. But the CNO will come as soon as possible to speak to you.
What if someone dies while off-duty?
You’ll need to let their military unit know as soon as you can. You should also let the JCCC know. Then they’ll be able to give you support on next steps.
What support will you get from the military?
Once the CNO tells you about the death of a loved one serving in the military, you’ll get support from a visiting officer. They will be your contact with the armed forces just in case you have any questions.
Your visiting officer and the JCCC will help you:
- Get the body back to the UK
- Get any funeral grants you’re entitled to
- Arrange the funeral
- Arrange military grave markings
- Organise your loved one’s affairs
The visiting officer will also give you a copy of the Purple Pack. This has info on next steps to take and what benefits you’re entitled to. It’s a lot to take in. So we’ve provided essential info below on how to get the help you need.
What financial help will you get with the funeral?
If you’re the next of kin to someone who died while serving in the military you could get:
- A £1,000 funeral expenses grant
- A service-funded funeral
- A payment for a private funeral you’ve paid for
If the funeral is service-funded then most of the bill will be paid for by the unit. Depending on whether the person is buried or cremated the JCCC may also pay for:
- A headstone with a military pattern
- Maintenance of the headstone
- An urn plot marker
- Or an entry in a book of remembrance
If you’re organising a private funeral you’ll have to pay for it up front. But you could get up to £3,459 back. Just make sure you have the bill from the funeral director to prove the cost of the funeral.
If you’re worried about paying for the funeral or struggling financially contact the Veterans Welfare Service. Let your visiting officer know too. They may be able to get you more help or find other ways to raise money for the funeral.
How to get help with your loved one’s will
If the person who died in service left behind a will the JCCC will contact the executor of the will. This is the person who’s been named in the will. They’re responsible for organising the estate of the person that’s passed away.
The JCCC will offer advice to the executor on:
- Returning personal items
- Organising any debt or payments the deceased left behind
- Inheritance tax
If the death of the person was linked to active, war-like or emergency service then they’ll be exempt from inheritance tax. This means you won’t be taxed on any money, property, or personal items that they left for you in their will.
If no will was left behind the JCCC will get in touch and let you know about any issues that need to be dealt with.
Military benefits for family after death
Military death in service benefits for the next of kin or family are complicated. Your visiting officer and a welfare manager from the Veterans Welfare Service will be able to help you figure out what you can get.
You could be entitled to:
- Military pension after death
- Bereavement benefits
- Children’s benefits
Let’s take each one in turn and see what you could be entitled to.
Who gets military pension after death?
After the death of a serving person, it’s usually the spouse, civil partner or eligible partner who gets the military pension.
But this depends on which pension your loved one had. There are three types of armed forces pension schemes (AFPS):
- AFPS 1975 – Payments from this scheme will only be paid to a spouse or civil partner. If you’re not married then you won’t get a payment from this scheme. But your children could still get a payment.
- AFPS 2005 & AFPS 2015 – Both these schemes will be paid to a spouse, civil partner or eligible partner. This could be an unmarried partner who lived with the serving person. To get the payments you’ll need to prove that you relied on the serving person financially or that you both shared the finances. To do this you’ll need proof of a joint bank account, bill sharing or you should be named in their will.
Depending on your circumstances and which pension scheme your partner was part of, your children may be entitled to a lump sum payment. Make sure you talk this through with your visiting officer and welfare manager. They’ll help you figure out what you’re entitled to.
You can also find more details about each pension scheme on the Forces Pension Society website.
Who’s entitled to bereavement benefits?
If your partner or spouse died in the last 21 months you could get a bereavement support payment from the government. This could help you if you’re struggling financially after their death.
Learn more about who can apply, and what amount you could get on the
It’s also worth checking if the war widow(er) pension from the government applies to you. You can apply if your spouse or civil partner died during their service before 6 April 2005. But you may also be eligible if your partner died after this date as a result of an injury or illness that happened during their service.
If your partner was injured or developed an illness as a result of their service after 6 April 2005 you can make a claim through the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme.
What about children’s benefits?
If you get Continuity of Education Allowance (CEA) for your children you’ll still get it following the death of your loved one as long as your children are still in education. Payments will last until the end of the children’s current stage in education or for two full terms following your loved one’s death. Payments may last even longer if your child is taking public exams. Check this with your visiting officer so you get what you’re entitled to.
Support from armed forces charities
When funeral arrangements have been made, you’ve dealt with finances and your visiting officer leaves, you may want more support or just someone to talk to. Here’s a list of organisations and charities that help families affected by the loss of someone serving in the armed forces.
- SSAFA The Armed Forces Charity
- RAF Community Support
- Naval Service Support
- Army Widows Association
- War Widows Association
- Scotty’s Little Soldiers
- Families’ Activity Breaks For Bereaved Military Families