Finding pensions

A comprehensive guide

Have you worked for multiple employers or changed addresses frequently? Reasons like these can make it more difficult to track down previous pensions. Yet, rediscovering forgotten pensions could transform your retirement finances.
This in-depth guide explains everything you need to know about tracking down lost UK pensions.
Why bother finding old pensions?
1. Maximise your retirement income
The more pension pots you uncover, the greater your retirement savings will be. Even locating a small, long-forgotten pension could make a big difference.
2. Reduce provider fees
Combining multiple pensions means you only pay one set of provider fees, which could reduce how much you are paying out each year. Lower fees mean more of your money goes towards improving your retirement income.
3. Simplify pension management
Monitoring several pension schemes can be time consuming and complicated. Combining your plans into one consolidated pension pot can make it easier to manage your pensions.
4. Benefit from better performing investments
Older pension schemes often fall behind modern plans in terms of investment performance and options. Identifying lost plans allows you to consider transferring to something more tailored to your situation.
5. Ensure loved ones inherit your wealth
Knowing all your pension details makes it easier for beneficiaries to claim any remaining funds after your death.
6. Maximise tax relief
When you contribute to a pension, you receive tax relief up to a limit. Finding lost pensions means you can get relief on any contributions you make to them.
All our opinions relating to taxation and related matters are based on our understanding of the current tax law and practice of HMRC, which is subject to change.
Government figures indicate around £19.4 billion in unclaimed pensions, with 1.6 million people having lost track of a pension. Don't let your retirement savings go undiscovered.
Government figures indicate around £19.4 billion in unclaimed pensions, with 1.6 million people having lost track of a pension. Don't let your retirement savings go undiscovered.
How to find lost pensions in the UK

By making use of these pension tracing methods, you should manage to uncover the details of any long-forgotten pension schemes.
Should I transfer old pensions into a new plan?
After tracking down your various pensions, you may want to consider combining them into one consolidated pension plan or pot by transferring the funds. What are the potential benefits of consolidating your pensions?
  • Lower fees - combining multiple pension pots means you'll just have one set of account, administration, and management fees. This could lower your overall annual fee, which means more money in your pot with the potential to grow.
  • Simplicity - keeping track of one pension plan is much simpler than monitoring many different schemes with various providers.
  • Investment performance - older pension schemes could be poorly invested, performing worse than more modern ones. Transferring could boost returns.
  • Retirement options - newer pension plans may offer more flexibility, like drawdown. Transferring may provide access to better retirement options.
  • Get organised -- transferring stranded pots into one place can help you identify and locate any pensions you'd forgotten about.
  • Tax-free cash - some old schemes may not offer tax-free cash options. Combining them into one that does allows access to 25% tax-free cash, giving you greater flexibility.
  • Passing on wealth - consolidated personal pensions makes it easier to nominate who inherits any leftover funds.
What downsides or risks could consolidating pensions involve?
  • Exit fees - your old provider might impose exit penalties for transferring your savings to a new scheme.
  • Losing benefits - some pensions offer valuable benefits that you'd lose by transferring out.
  • Scams - beware of scammers encouraging pension transfers in order to later steal funds. Only use financial advisers authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.
  • Tax implications - in some cases, transferring a mature pension could result in a tax liability. Seek tax advice.
  • Long transfers - moving pensions can take months - make sure your funds aren't out of the market for an extended period.
If you have multiple underperforming personal pensions, combining them into one modern pension account may be beneficial. But proceed with caution, get regulated financial advice to check transferring makes sense for you before consolidating any valuable plans.
Tips for keeping track of your pensions
Once you've gone through the hassle of tracking down your pensions, you'll want to make sure you don't lose them again:
  • Centralise records - keep any pension correspondence, statements, and details together in a dedicated file for easy reference
  • Document provider details - add pension provider contact information and policy numbers to your address book or accounts spreadsheet for safekeeping
  • Set reminders - pop pension review reminders in your calendar to prompt you to check statements and details periodically
  • Notify providers of any changes - inform pension providers if you move house or change contact information so you can continue receiving statements
  • List pensions in your will - including pension policy details in your will helps beneficiaries locate them if required
  • Limit the number of plans - consolidate pots where possible - fewer accounts makes things simpler
  • Seek ongoing help from an adviser - a financial adviser can continually manage and organise your pensions on your behalf
  • Access pensions online - sign up for online access so you can view your pension details anytime
Using these methods, you should be able to keep your pension details organised and avoid misplacing important information in the future.
Finding lost pensions for a deceased person
  • Check paperwork and files - look through any employment or pension records of the deceased for provider names, policy numbers, etc.
  • Contact former employers - ask for pension scheme details from all the companies the person previously worked for
  • Speak to their bank - their bank may be able to confirm if pension contributions were being made from their account
  • Get in touch with pension providers - once you have the scheme name, you can request details from the provider directly
  • Search the Pension Tracing Service website - use information like past employer names to find contact details
  • Inform the pension provider - notify them of the death so any owed funds can be paid to beneficiaries
  • Seek help from a financial adviser - advisers often have specialist resources to help trace pensions left by deceased individuals
  • Contact the DWP - they can check records for any State Pension or benefits the deceased individual was entitled to
  • Ask solicitors if involved with probate - the solicitor may already have pension scheme details
  • Talk to HMRC - they may hold records of the person's previous pension contributions
The good news is that any leftover defined contribution pension funds can typically be passed tax-efficiently to nominated beneficiaries. Make locating pensions on behalf of deceased loved ones a priority.
Passing on your pension to a beneficiary
Naming a beneficiary to inherit your pension wealth allows you to pass funds directly to loved ones after your death in a tax-efficient manner outside of probate:
  • For defined contribution pensions, you can nominate anyone of your choosing as your beneficiary - a relative, spouse, dependant, etc.
  • Your beneficiaries no longer need to have been financially dependent on you in order to receive your pension savings.
  • Beneficiaries can inherit funds completely tax-free if you pass away before age 75.
  • After age 75, beneficiaries need to pay income tax on withdrawals at their marginal rate. The tax rate depends on the size of withdrawals.
  • Beneficiaries can take funds as a lump sum or leave the pension invested and make periodic withdrawals.
  • You must complete an expression of wish form with your pension provider naming desired beneficiaries and keep it up to date.
  • Pensions passed on don't form part of the estate for inheritance tax purposes.
  • Beneficiaries have up to two years from the date of death to claim any inherited pension funds.
  • Unclaimed pension funds can end up in a government-run reclaim fund after two years.
Make sure your pension permits inherited death benefits. Consult an adviser to check your expression of wish nomination reflects your wishes.
Staying safe from pension scams
Pension scams are commonplace, often involving enticing promises of fail-safe investments, cash incentives, pension loans, or unusually high returns. Here's how to avoid pension scams:
  • Ignore any cold calls about pensions - reputable offers will be made in writing after requesting information.
  • Be wary of anyone creating artificial time pressures, such as limited time offers. Take your time researching.
  • Double check the Financial Conduct Authority register that any company contacting you is officially registered and authorised.
  • Never take pension transfer advice from the company receiving the transfer.
  • Refuse requests for sensitive information, like passwords, from anyone attempting to discuss finances.
  • Ensure you fully understand how your pension funds are invested.
Treat pension communications with caution, especially from companies you've had no prior dealings with. Thorough vetting, impartial advice, and trusting instincts will all help you to avoid scammers.
Treat pension communications with caution, especially from companies you've had no prior dealings with. Thorough vetting, impartial advice, and trusting instincts will all help you to avoid scammers.
15 common questions about finding pensions in the UK

In summary
  • Finding lost pensions should be a priority to maximise your wealth in retirement
  • Transferring pensions into one consolidated pot simplifies management, but you must also consider the risks of this
  • Implement reliable systems to keep your pensions organised in the future
  • Nominating beneficiaries means your pension wealth can be passed on tax efficiently
  • Take great care to avoid the many pension scams in operation
Locating forgotten pensions and bringing them together takes effort, but it's worthwhile to ensure the maximum funds for your later years.
The details provided in this article are for general information only and are in no way deemed to be financial advice. All of the material is correct as of the publication date, but could be out-of-date by the time you read the article.
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