Four in five UK adults say they don’t have a ‘pension will’

New insight reveals lack of ‘pension wills’ at the start of Pensions Awareness Week


Four out of five UK adults (77%)1 say they have never completed a nominated beneficiary or expression of wish form to nominate who should receive their pension on their passing, according to new insight from Canada Life.


Not completing an expression of wish form can lead to delays in trustees making payments to beneficiaries, and in the worst case scenario could lead to the wrong beneficiaries receiving payment, Canada Life says.


Andrew Tully, Technical Director at Canada Life, said:

“An expression of wish form is a vital piece of the pension jigsaw. Anyone who has a pension would have been asked at outset to complete a form to nominate who should receive the benefits of the pension in the event of their death. Given that millions of people are now saving into a pension through being auto-enrolled, it may come as a surprise to learn that such a high number of people say they haven’t completed a form. It could be that they simply don’t recollect doing it, didn’t understand what it was, or put it to one side to complete later.

“It really is crucial that these forms are not only completed but also updated if circumstances change, as it helps pension trustees and scheme administrators pay benefits quickly and efficiently, and to the right beneficiary. Think of them as a ‘will for your pension’ and ensure you keep it up to date if your personal circumstances change.

“This approach continues into retirement if you have decided to use drawdown to manage your finances, as again, any remaining pension funds will be paid more quickly and to the right people if the Scheme Administrator has clear instructions. In addition, as the legislation is more complex than it needs to be, nominating people is likely to allow more flexibility for benefits to be passed on in a tax efficient way.”

Pension death benefit expression of wish forms explained

Who gets pension savings following the death of a member is usually down to the discretion of the trustees or scheme administrator.  In order to help them make these decisions, members can complete an ‘expression of wish’ or ‘nomination’ form. This allows the member to document what they want to happen to their money when they die. Although not legally binding, the forms are used by pension scheme trustees and administrators to speed up the distribution of funds to nominated beneficiaries. Often there can be complicated family situations so there may be a desire to include multiple people on the nomination form.

The pension or drawdown provider will have asked the customer to complete an expression of wish form at the outset of the pension being started, or at the point the drawdown plan was started. It can normally be updated at any time so should be reviewed regularly, especially if family circumstances change, or as the member crosses the age 75 threshold when the tax status of benefits changes.

Pension scheme trustees or administrators will always take into consideration an expression of wish form, as well as considering if there are other potential beneficiaries.


  1. Source: Research among 2,002 UK adults conducted by Opinium Research between 14-17 July 2020.