What happens to your pension when you die? Who gets your pension if you die? These are questions that many people in Ireland are asking these days. It actually depends on two factors: What kind of pension you have, and whether you are already retired or not.  In the past, most pensions were paid out as a lump sum upon the retiree’s death.

However, with the advent of Personal Retirement Bonds (PRB pension), things have changed somewhat. If you have a Personal Retirement Bond, the balance of your bond will be paid out to your beneficiaries upon your death. However, there are some conditions that must be met in order for this to happen. Keep reading to learn more about what happens to your pension when you die in Ireland.


It’s the stage where you are still working, or otherwise aren’t taking your pension benefits yet.

Company Pension Schemes

What happens to my company pension when I die? Who gets my pension if I die? If you’re in a company pension scheme, you should check their rules, as every scheme can be a little bit different. Depending on what kind of contract you have with your pension provider, your family might get a Death in Service benefit as a lump sum if you die. If your company provides for an annuity when you retire, like many Defined Benefit Pension Schemes, your spouse may be entitled to a percentage of the pension you would have received.

Personal Retirement Savings Accounts (PRSAs)

If you happen to die before retirement, then the value of your personal retirement bond fund will be transferred tax-free to your estate. Also, the person who inherits this fund may be required to pay inheritance tax. Learn more about it here. However, you should know that inheritances between legal spouses are tax-free. Therefore, if your husband for instance inherits your personal retirement bond fund, they won’t have to pay any inheritance tax on it. 

Can I cash in my PRSA?

If the value of your PRSA is below €650, you may cash in your PRSA. However, if the value of your PRSA is above this amount, you must use the proceeds to purchase an annuity, which is an insurance contract that pays you a regular income for life.

If you die before cashing in your PRSA, the value of your PRSA will be paid to your beneficiaries. If you have not nominated any beneficiaries, the value of your PRSA will be paid to your estate.

Personal Pensions / Retirement Annuity Contracts (RACs)

Like a PRSA, the value of your Personal Pension fund will be transferred tax-free to your estate. Again, the question of the inheritance tax comes into play, like with PRSAs.

Personal Retirement Bond (PRB)

Sometimes, when you transfer your retirement fund out of a company scheme, it may be placed in a Personal Retirement Bond. You can’t make any more contributions to a PRB pension, but you can control how it’s invested. Also, with this type of pension fund, you are able to take your pension benefits from age 50 onwards. 

But what will happen to your pension if you die before retirement in Ireland? If you die before retirement, the value of the PRB pension fund should be transferred to your estate like PRSAs and Personal Pensions. The inheritance tax implications are the same as above.

After Retirement:

This is when you are taking your private retirement benefits and enjoying the money of your fund. However, you may not be receiving the State Pension yet, if you are under 66 and have taken early retirement.

How your pension is distributed when you retire: 

  • You get a 25% tax-free lump sum
  • Your lump sum will be inherited as part of your estate. 
  • There may be an inheritance tax due, depending on who inherits your estate.

Who Gets My Pension If I Die? 


This is most common with Defined Benefit Pension Schemes. As a member of this scheme, you can nominate your spouse as a receiver of your pension when your die (a % of your pension). 

You should know that annuities often have a Guarantee Period of up to 5 years. If you die within the first five years, your family will receive either a lump sum or an income payment. For example, your annuity pays you €20,000 p/a. You die a year after retirement, so your family will be paid €20,000 each year for 4 years. 

Approved Retirement Fund

You can leave these funds directly to your spouse, and they can be transferred into an ARF in their own name. Otherwise, the fund is wound up and transferred directly to your estate as cash. The ARF provider will deduct any income tax due before transferring to your estate. It’s important to know that legal spouses don’t pay income tax on a transfer to their own ARF, but they do if the fund is paid out to the estate. They also don’t have any inheritance tax.

Adult children over 21 will have an income tax liability of 30%, regardless of the fund size, but are also exempt from Inheritance Tax.

However, children under 21 who inherit an ARF will have no income tax liability but will be subject to Inheritance Tax. 

How we can help with your pension fund

  • What happens to your pension when you die?
  • Who gets your pension if you die? 
  • Help you set up a pension for free
  • Help with Personal Retirement Bond Contributions(PRB Pension)
  • Review your old pension and help you change it if necessary
  • Check your current pension and see if they are to your best advantage
  • Evaluate if you can invest more money in your retirement
  • Help you turn your money into income at retirement.


Greenway Financial Advisors Limited is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland. Registered No. C168372

Debbie Cheevers

Debbie Cheevers

Qualified Financial Advisor

Debbie was born in Dublin and graduated from NCAD with a degree in Visual Communication. She brings a strong customer services background to Greenway.

Debbie qualified as APA in 2017 and a fully qualified financial advisor (QFA) in 2018.

She believes that product knowledge is key to helping customers make the right choices.

Free Call with Financial Advisor
Get a Financial Advisor To Review Your Personal Circumstances & Give You The Best Advice For Pensions, Insurance or a Financial Plan. Fill out the form below & one of our financial advisors will contact you within 24 hours!