What happens after a military death?

When a service person dies, things can get confusing. Here’s our guide to what happens after a military death, and what support a bereaved person can expect.

What support can a bereaved person expect from after the death of a loved one in service?

When a Service Person dies, various things happen. There are lots of processes and procedures, many that are quite confusing.

We’re here to help.

How is death in service different?

The death of a Service Person isn’t much different to any other death. Losing a loved one is devastating under any circumstances. 

However, there are other factors, can make the grieving process more complicated. These include:

  • The person who died is often young.
  • The person who died might have young children, babies or a pregnant partner.
  • Their death is often sudden and traumatic.
  • Family members might have to deal with media intrusion and being in the public eye.
  • If it was an operational death, there might be mixed feelings towards what happened.

Changing from a ‘Service-centred’ life

The family of the service person who died are likely to live a ‘Service-centred’ life. A lot of their lives are centred around, as well as supported by, the Military Services. This includes where they live, as well as where and when they move. Losing someone who was a service person can result in their family’s whole way of life changing. They’ll have to leave their military home, as well as the community they lived in. 

Partners of service people often move away from their hometowns. Due to this distance, there may be little or no contact between families. When a service person dies, their partners and families can have difficulty getting the support they need.

What to expect


It’s very understandable for bereaved military families to worry about their finances. 

It’s important to know all pay, service allowances and centrally recovered charges will stop from the day following the date of death. However, other benefits will start.

In the event of a missing person, full pay and allowances will continue to be paid until death is presumed to have occurred or been confirmed. 

For more information about finances, head over to Veterans UK


All Service People are encouraged to make a Will or a Service Will. However, it’s not mandatory. 

As a lot of Service People who die are young, many either haven’t made a Will or kept it up-to-date. This can cause some problems, especially within families and former partners. If the person who died hasn’t made a will, it then becomes a civil law matter.

However, when a Will is made and it’s clear who is named in it, the Visting Officer (VO) will visit. This is usually within a few days. They’ll provide you with support and guidance. They’ll also bring a letter from the Joint Casualty and Compassionate Cell. This will contain information about:

  • Grants
  • Pensions
  • Compensation and gratuities 
  • Any other specific benefits

It’s important to know that confirming anyone named in the will, as well as dependent children, can sometimes cause delays.

The return of your loved one’s possessions can be very upsetting. The Visiting Officer will often hand over the Service Person’s possessions, either to executor or to the authorised family member. During this, you may find you have some difficult decisions to make.

The Visiting Officer will arrange for the belongings to be given to the family. Before this can happen, the family needs to be identified as entitled to the possessions This is normally done through the will, and can sometimes take a while to process. Returning the personal items can take some time too, particularly if there aren’t all in the same location. For instance, if the death occured in operations, or the person who died was in overseas training.

If the person who died had a lot of belongings, you can talk about how you’d like to deal with them with the Visiting Officer.

Cleaning and laundering

You’ll be asked whether you’d like the personal items to be laundered or cleaned. Do let the Visiting Officer know as soon as possible. 

It’s important to be aware that the circumstances of the death, and the place where it happened, might make getting items cleaned difficult. It’s not always possible to ask the family how they’d like their loved one’s belongings to be handled.

Special possessions

If your loved one had specific items – especially small, sentimental items like jewellery – let the Visiting Officer know. They’ll want to make sure that these are identified as soon as possible.

Similarly, if you might think something is missing, ask your Visiting Officer to look into it. 

While every effort is made to handle the personal items carefully, sadly some can’t be handed over. Personal items, such as rings or watches, don’t often survive explosions or accidents.

If you’re living in service accommodation you may have concerns about having to move. Your Visiting Officer will be able to gived you advice based on your situation. 

At the moment, after a military death families are able to stay in acccommodation for up to two years.  There are some cases where this can be extended  – the welfare agency looking after your family will be able to help with this if need be.

Once a military partner has died, you will become the licensee of their accommodation. They’ll continue to pay normal quarter charges/rent. If you live alone, you might be able to apply for reduced Council Tax. This is reduced by 25% for single occupancy.

Throughout this process, it may be possible for  be allocated quarters/hiring closer to where they’d like to settle. This means you can move into the area and look for private accommodation ahead of moving out.

Costs for moving into private accommodation are payable once you’re ready to move. This is known  as a ‘Disturbance Allowance’ and covers removal expenses, along with other costs that come with moving home.

Reserve Forces and their families

We offer the same support for the families of reserve forces members who have died, as we do for the families of regular full time members of the military.

Foreign and Commonwealth families

The Military Services work to provide the same level of service to all bereaved families, including those who come from foreign or commonwealth countries. They will be contacted by:

  • Nepal – Gurkha families’ Special Provision
  • Fiji and the West Indies – British Support Officers
  • Rest of the World – Defence Diplomatic Staff

However, there are certain countries where political situations make it difficult to reach families. These are all dealt with on an individual basis. 

Families can choose to have the funeral in the UK, or in their home country.

If your parent or partner has died, you might now be affected by immigration laws.  All applications are considered individually, and will treat each case sympathetically.

Where to get support

Looking for help? These organisations are here for you.

The Veterans Welfare Service (VWS) works to improve the quality of life for veterans.

The VWS offers support and advice to veterans, their families and dependants. They can help with filling in forms – this includes applying for benefits you are entitled to, along with accessing welfare services. 

Help can be given over the phone or through a one-to-one home visit.

All UK military services have widows’ support groups – these are run by widows for military widows, widowers and partners.

Support organisations for military families include:

Ex-service charities are a useful source of advice and support. Whilst each charity has a particular focus, they often work together to meet the wider needs of military families.

These charities include:

Everyone’s circumstances are different – it may take a little while to get your exact entitlement sorted out. If you’re having difficulty, you can reach out to: