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Benefits and bereavement

Benefits after bereavement

If you are married or in a registered civil partnership and your partner dies, you may be able to get extra financial help. These benefits are called bereavement benefits.

If your husband, wife or civil partner died when they were serving in the Armed Forces, you may also be able to get financial help from the Service Personnel and Veterans Agency (SPVA). You can get this help as well as bereavement benefits – see Financial help if your husband, wife or civil partner was in the Armed Forces, under heading Other help.

If you do not have much money coming in following the death of a partner there may be other benefits you can claim.

For more information about other benefits if you do not have much money coming in, see Help for people on a low income – Income Support. If you have children, see Benefits for families and children.

If a partner (including a married, civil or cohabiting partner), someone else in your family or a close friend dies, and you are on a low income, you may be able to get help with the costs of a funeral (see under Payments for funeral expenses, under heading Other help). Partners include lesbian, gay and heterosexual partners, whether you were married, in a civil partnership or just living together.

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Bereavement benefits

Bereavement benefits include:

  • Bereavement Payment - a one-off lump sum you claim when your spouse or civil partner dies (see under heading Bereavement Payment)
  • Widowed Parent’s Allowance if you have dependent children (see under heading Widowed Parent’s Allowance)
  • Bereavement Allowance if you don't have dependent children (see under heading Bereavement Allowance).

Bereavement benefits are paid to widows, widowers or the surviving partner of a civil partnership. You can get a bereavement benefit if your husband, wife or civil partner died on or after 9 April 2001.

If you are a man whose wife died before this date, you may still be able to get some benefit if you have children - see under heading Widowed parent’s allowance.

If you are a woman and your husband died before this date, you may be getting Widow’s Pension or Widowed Mother’s Allowance. You can carry on getting these benefits for as long as you are entitled (see under heading Widows’ benefits for deaths before April 2001).

Who can get a Bereavement benefit

You can get a bereavement benefit if you were legally married to your husband or wife who has now died. You can also get a bereavement benefit if you and your same-sex partner who has died registered a civil partnership.

In Scotland, it was possible to claim a bereavement benefit if you had an irregular marriage. This means that you lived with someone as husband and wife and you were treated as though you were married. Most people will no longer be able to enter into an irregular marriage after 3 May 2006. However, you can continue to get bereavement benefit if you are already irregularly married.

You can't get any of the bereavement benefits if you were divorced from your husband or wife when they died, or you and your civil partner had dissolved your civil partnership. You are also excluded from claiming bereavement benefits if you remarry, or register another civil partnership. If you are getting a bereavement benefit when you remarry or register another civil partnership, it will stop. Even if you do not remarry or register another civil partnership, you cannot get bereavement benefits if you live with another partner.

You can't get bereavement benefits in prison.

There are also different age limits for getting bereavement benefits:

If you are not sure whether you can claim a bereavement benefit, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

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Bereavement Payment

A Bereavement Payment is a one-off tax-free lump sum payment of £2,000. You can claim it if you were widowed on or after 9 April 2001. You must claim within twelve months of your husband's, wife's or civil partner's death, unless there are exceptional circumstances which mean that you did not know about the death or it was not confirmed.

Who can get a Bereavement Payment

You are entitled to a Bereavement Payment if your husband, wife, or civil partner who has died paid enough national insurance contributions. If they died as the result of an industrial accident or an industrial disease, it does not matter whether they paid enough contributions or not.

To get Bereavement Payment you must have been below state pension age when your husband, wife or civil partner died, or - if you were over state pension age - they must not have been entitled to state retirement pension, based on their own national insurance contributions, when they  died. You must have been married to your husband or wife, or in a registered civil partnership with your partner when they died.

Until 6 April 2010, state pension age was 60 for a woman and 65 for a man. Since this date, the minimum age at which both men and women can claim a state pension is gradually being set to age 65 and will be increased, depending on which year you were born.

If you want to check when you will reach state pension age, there is a state pension age calculator on the Directgov website at www.direct.gov.uk.

How to claim a Bereavement Payment

If you are getting State Retirement Pension when your husband, wife or civil partner dies, you do not need to make a claim for a Bereavement Payment, as long as you meet the other conditions. You will automatically get the Bereavement Payment when you notify the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), or Social Security Agency in Northern Ireland, of your partner's death.

In England and Wales, you can claim a Bereavement Payment and tell the DWP about the death at the same time, by calling the DWP Bereavement Service on:

Telephone: 0845 606 0265
Textphone: 0845 606 0285
Telephone: 0845 606 0275 (Welsh)
Textphone: 0845 606 0295 (Welsh)

The Bereavement Service can take your claim for bereavement benefits over the phone and do a benefits check to see if you qualify for any other benefits as a result of the death.

Alternatively, you can claim a Bereavement Payment on form BB1. You can get the form from your local Jobcentre Plus office or, in England, Wales and Scotland, from the Directgov website at: www.direct.gov.uk.

You can also claim a Bereavement Payment by calling Jobcentre Plus on:

Freephone: 0800 055 6688
Textphone: 0800 023 4888
Welsh language line: 0800 012 1888

In Northern Ireland you can get form BB1 From your local Social security or jobs and benefits office or from the NIDirect website at: www.nidirect.gov.uk.

You can also claim a Bereavement payment in Northern Ireland by calling the Pension Service claim line:

Freephone: 0808 100 2658
Textphone: 0808 100 2198

You must claim within twelve months of your spouse or civil partner's death. If you could not claim within this time because you did not know your spouse or civil partner was dead or it had not been confirmed, it may be possible to make a late claim.

If you think you may be able to make a late claim you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

When you claim a Bereavement Payment, you will have to provide your national insurance number and evidence that it belongs to you. If you do not know your national insurance number but you think you have one, you should provide information to help the office to identify it. If you do not have a national insurance number, you will have to apply for one before you can claim a Bereavement Payment.

For more information about national insurance, see National Insurance – contributions and benefits.

You may also have to supply your spouse’s or civil partner's death certificate, your marriage certificate or civil partnership certificate or other evidence to support your claim for Bereavement Payment. If you do not have this evidence, you should not delay your claim.

If you have problems providing the required evidence, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

How is your Bereavement Payment paid

Bereavement Payment is paid direct into your bank, building society or Post Office card account.

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Widowed Parent's Allowance

Widowed Parent’s Allowance is a weekly payment made to a widow, widower or surviving civil partner with dependent children. Your husband, wife or civil partner must usually have died on or after 9 April 2001. However, if you are a man and your wife died before this date, you were under 65 when she died and you did not re-marry before 9 April 2001, you can also claim Widowed Parent’s Allowance.

Widowed Parent’s Allowance is part of your taxable income.

Who can get Widowed Parent’s Allowance

You can get Widowed Parent’s Allowance if you are bringing up a child or you are a woman expecting your husband’s baby. You can also get Widowed Parent's Allowance if you are a woman who was living with your civil partner when she died and you are pregnant as a result of fertility treatment.

If you are bringing up a child you must usually be getting Child Benefit for that child. The child should be:

  • the child of you and your late spouse, or
  • the child of you and your late civil partner, or
  • a child who you or your late spouse or civil partner got Child Benefit for at the time of your spouse or civil partner's death (for example, it could be your adopted child or a step-child).

You must have been under state pension age when your husband, wife or civil partner died, and your spouse or civil partner must have paid enough national insurance contributions for you to get Widowed Parent’s Allowance. The only exception is if their death was caused by an industrial injury or an industrial disease, when it does not matter if enough national insurance contributions had been paid.

If you need more information about the contribution conditions for Widowed Parent's Allowance, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

How much is Widowed Parent’s Allowance

Widowed Parent’s Allowance is made up of a basic allowance, and in some cases an additional pension on top based on your late husband, wife or civil partner's earnings. If you claimed before 6 April 2003, you may be getting an additional amount for each dependent child. This can carry on for as long as you are entitled. If you claim after this date you will not get an amount for your children, and you should claim Child Tax Credit.

The amount of the basic Widowed Parent’s Allowance will depend on your late husband, wife or civil partner's national insurance contributions, unless they died because of an industrial injury or disease.

You can find the current rates of Widowed Parent's Allowance on the Directgov website at www.direct.gov.uk.

How to claim Widowed Parent’s Allowance

In England and Wales, you can report the death and claim Widowed Parent's Allowance by calling the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) Bereavement Service. They will take a claim for bereavement benefits over the phone. In Northern Ireland, call the Social Security Agency Bereavement Service.

In the same phone call, the DWP can also do a benefits check to see if you qualify for any other benefits as a result of the death. See How to claim a Bereavement Payment for contact details.

Alternatively, you can claim Widowed Parent's Allowance on form BB1. You can get form BB1 from your local Jobcentre Plus office or, in England, Wales and Scotland, from the Directgov website at: www.direct.gov.uk or by calling Jobcentre Plus on:

Freephone: 0800 055 6688
Textphone: 0800 023 4888
Welsh language line: 0800 012 1888

In Northern Ireland you can get form BB1 From your local Social security or jobs and benefits office or from the NIDirect website at: www.nidirect.gov.uk.

You can also claim Widowed Parent's Allowance in Northern Ireland by calling the Pension Service claim line:

Freephone: 0808 100 2658
Textphone: 0808 100 2198

You should claim Widowed Parent’s Allowance within three months of the date of death, to avoid losing any money. If  you claim later than this, your benefit can only be backdated for up to three months  

If you claim late, you can ask for backdating on the claim form. You do not have to give a reason for claiming late as long as you can show that you were entitled to Widowed Parent's Allowance before you made your claim. In some cases, you may be able to get Widowed Parent's Allowance for more than three months before you made your claim.

When you claim Widowed Parent’s Allowance, you will have to supply your national insurance number and evidence that it belongs to you. If you do not know your national insurance number, but you think you have one, you should provide information to help the office identify it. If you do not have a national insurance number, you will have to apply for one before you can get Widowed Parent’s Allowance.

For more information about national insurance, see National Insurance – contributions and benefits.

You may also have to supply your spouse or civil partner's death certificate, your marriage or civil partnership certificate or other evidence to support your claim for Widowed Parent's Allowance. If you do not have this evidence, you should not delay your claim.

If you have problems providing the required evidence, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

Widowed Parent's Allowance, change in circumstances and fraud

You may commit benefit fraud if you give incorrect or misleading information, or fail to report a change of circumstances, for example, if your child leaves school you may no longer be entitled to Widowed Parent's Allowance. Even if you are not committing fraud, you can cause an overpayment which will have to be repaid. Your circumstances can be checked at any time while you are claiming Widowed Parent’s Allowance. Benefit fraud is a criminal offence and you can be prosecuted or asked to pay a penalty.

For more information on what to do if you are asked to attend an interview under caution, see Problems with benefits and tax credits.

If you are worried about whether you might be suspected of fraud, you are under investigation or you have been convicted, or if you have been asked to repay an overpayment of benefit, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

How is Widowed Parent’s Allowance paid

Widowed Parent’s Allowance is usually paid directly into a bank, building society or Post Office card account. If you cannot open or manage an account, you can be paid by Simple Payment. The DWP will give you a Simple Payment card that you can use to collect your benefit at a PayPoint outlet displaying the Simple Payment sign.

How long is Widowed Parent’s Allowance paid for

You can get Widowed Parent’s Allowance until you stop getting Child Benefit. If this happens within 52 weeks of your husband, wife or civil partner's death, you can claim Bereavement Allowance for the rest of the 52 weeks.

Payment of Widowed Parent’s Allowance will end earlier if you stop being entitled for a reason not connected to your children, for example, if you get married, register a civil partnership or start living with someone as a couple – see under Who can get a bereavement allowance.

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Bereavement Allowance

Bereavement allowance is a weekly benefit paid to someone for 52 weeks from the death of their husband, wife or civil partner.

Who can get Bereavement Allowance

To be eligible for Bereavement Allowance, your spouse or civil partner must have died on or after 9 April 2001. You can get Bereavement Allowance if you are 45 or over when your spouse or civil partner died, but under state pension age.

Your husband, wife or civil partner must have paid enough national insurance contributions for you to get Bereavement Allowance. However, if they died because of an industrial injury or disease the contribution conditions do not have to be met.

To get Bereavement Allowance, you must not be entitled to Widowed Parent’s Allowance. However, you can get Bereavement Allowance if your Widowed Parent’s Allowance ends because you stop getting Child Benefit, and this happens within 52 weeks of your spouse or civil partner's death.

Bereavement Allowance is part of your taxable income.

How much is Bereavement Allowance

The rate of Bereavement Allowance depends on how old you are when your husband, wife or civil partner died. If you were aged between 45 and 54 you get a lower rate which depends on your age. If you were 55 or over, but under state pension age when your spouse or civil partner died or you stopped getting Widowed Parent’s Allowance, you get the highest rate. The rate of Bereavement Allowance may be reduced if your late husband, wife or civil partner did not pay enough national insurance contributions. In some cases, you may get an additional pension on top of bereavement allowance based on your late spouse or civil partner's earnings.

You can find the current rates of Bereavement Allowance on the Directgov website at www.direct.gov.uk.

How to claim Bereavement Allowance

In England, and Wales, you can report the death and claim Bereavement Allowance by calling the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) Bereavement Service. They will take a claim for bereavement benefits over the phone. In Northern Ireland, call the Social Security Agency Bereavement Service.

In the same phone call, the DWP can also do a benefits check to see if you qualify for any other benefits as a result of the death. See How to claim a Bereavement Payment for contact details.

Alternatively, you can claim Bereavement Allowance on form BB1. You can get form BB1 from your local Jobcentre Plus office or, in England, Wales and Scotland, from the Directgov website at: www.direct.gov.uk or by calling Jobcentre Plus on:

Freephone: 0800 055 6688
Textphone: 0800 023 4888
Welsh language line: 0800 012 1888

In Northern Ireland you can get form BB1 From your local Social security or jobs and benefits office or from the NIDirect website at: www.nidirect.gov.uk.

You can claim Bereavement Allowance in Northern Ireland by calling the Bereavement Allowance enquiry line:
Telephone: 028 9054 9393

You should claim Bereavement Allowance within three months of the date of death, to avoid losing any money. If you claim later than this, your benefit can only be backdated for up to three months  If you claim late, you can ask for backdating on the claim form. You do not have to give a reason for claiming late as long as you can show that you were entitled to Bereavement Allowance before you made your claim.

You can get benefit for up to three months before you make your claim. You should ask for this on the claim form. You do not have to give a reason for claiming late as long as you can show that you were entitled to Bereavement Allowance before you made your claim.

When you claim Bereavement Allowance, you will have to supply your national insurance number and evidence that it belongs to you. If you do not know your national insurance number, but you think you have one, you should provide information to help the office identify it. If you do not have a national insurance number, you will have to apply for one before you can get Bereavement Allowance.

For more information about national insurance, see National Insurance – contributions and benefits.

You may also have to supply your spouse or civil partner's death certificate, your marriage or civil partnership certificate or other evidence to support your claim for Bereavement Allowance. If you do not have this evidence, you should not delay your claim.

If you have problems providing the required evidence, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

Bereavement Allowance, change in circumstances and fraud

You may commit benefit fraud if you give incorrect or misleading information, or fail to report a change in your circumstances which mean you may no longer be entitled to Bereavement Allowance. Even if you are not committing fraud, you can cause an overpayment which will have to be repaid. Your circumstances can be checked at any time while you are claiming Bereavement Allowance. Benefit fraud is a criminal offence and you can be prosecuted or asked to pay a penalty.

For more information on what to do if you are asked to attend an interview under caution, see Problems with benefits and tax credits.

If you are worried about whether you might be suspected of fraud, you are under investigation or you have been convicted, or if you have been asked to repay an overpayment of benefit, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

How is Bereavement Allowance paid

Bereavement Allowance is usually paid directly into a bank, building society or Post Office card account. If you cannot open or manage an account, you can be paid by Simple Payment. The DWP will give you a Simple Payment card that you can use to collect payment at a PayPoint outlet displaying the Simple Payment sign.

How long is Bereavement Allowance paid for

You can only get Bereavement Allowance for 52 weeks from the date of your husband, wife or civil partner's death. You might only get it for part of that time if you have moved onto it from Widowed Parent’s Allowance. If you reach state pension age before the end of the 52 weeks you will no longer be entitled to Bereavement Allowance.

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Bereavement benefits abroad

If you are living abroad when your husband, wife or civil partner dies, or you move abroad, you can still get bereavement benefits.

If you are someone who is getting a bereavement benefit and want to know about going or living abroad, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

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Widows’ benefits for deaths before 9 April 2001

Until 8 April 2001, benefits for the death of a spouse were paid only to women. There were three types of benefit which were Widow’s Payment, Widowed Mother’s Allowance and Widow’s Pension. If you are a woman, you may still be getting one of these benefits.

Widow’s Payment

Widow’s Payment was a one off lump sum of £1,000 which you had to claim within three months of your husband’s death, unless you did not know he had died or his death had not been confirmed.

Widowed Mother’s Allowance

Widowed Mother’s Allowance was a weekly benefit for widows with dependent children. If you were receiving Widowed Mother’s Allowance immediately before 9 April 2001 you can continue to do so for as long as you satisfy the conditions of entitlement.

Widow’s Pension

Widow’s Pension was a weekly payment which you could claim if you were a woman without dependent children who was aged between 45 and 65 at the time of her husband’s death. You could also claim it when your Widowed Mother’s Allowance (see above) stopped, that is, when your children reached 16 or 18 or left school, as long as you were aged 45 or over and under 65 when it stopped. If you were being paid Widow’s Pension immediately before 9 April 2001 you can carry on getting it provided you continue to satisfy the conditions of entitlement.

Widow’s Pension is paid until you are 65, when you become entitled to a Retirement Pension at the same rate as the Widow’s Pension. If you are over state pension age (60) but under 65, you can choose to stay on Widow’s Pension or claim Retirement Pension.

If you are getting Widow’s Pension and you are deciding what to do at state pension age, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

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Problems with bereavement benefits

If you have been refused bereavement benefits or if you are awarded less than you think you should get, you can challenge the decision. You should do this within one month of the decision.

If you are unhappy with the standard of service you have received from the benefits office, for example, because of bad advice, errors, rudeness or delays, you can make a complaint. You can do this whether or not you also want to challenge a decision.

Discrimination

It's against the law for you to be treated unfairly because of age, disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy or childbirth, race, religion, sex or sexual orientation when benefits or tax credits are paid to you. Also, the Department for Work and Pensions, HM Revenue and Customs and most local authorities have policies which say they will not discriminate against you because of other things, for example, if you have caring responsibilities. If you feel that you've been discriminated against when you are paid benefits or tax credits, you can make a complaint about this.

For more about discrimination, see our Discrimination pages.

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Information in other formats

Information about bereavement benefits has to be available in a way that is accessible to you if you are disabled. For example, information must be available in an audio copy, large print or in Braille. To ask for large print, Braille or audio copies of any DWP leaflet, you should contact your local office.

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Other help

Help for people on a low income

You may be able to get means-tested benefits when you are a widow, widower or surviving civil partner if you do not have much money coming in and you meet the other qualifying conditions. For example, you may be entitled to Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, Housing Benefit, Council Tax Reduction (Rate Relief in Northern Ireland), Income Support or income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance.

If you are getting Bereavement Allowance, it is fully taken into account for these benefits. If you are getting Widowed Parent’s Allowance, part of it will be disregarded before it affects means-tested benefits. Bereavement Payment counts as part of your savings for means-tested benefits.

For information about Council Tax Reduction, see Council Tax Reduction - what you need to know.

For information about Working Tax Credit, see Benefits and tax credits for people in work.
For information about Child Tax Credit, see Benefits for families and children.
For information about Income Support, see Help for people on a low income – Income Support.
For information about Jobseeker’s Allowance, see Benefits for people looking for work.
For information abut Housing Benefit, see Help with your rent – Housing Benefit.

Payments for funeral expenses

If you have to pay for a funeral for your partner, a close relative or friend, you may be able to claim a funeral payment from the Social Fund. Partners include lesbian, gay and heterosexual partners, whether you were married, in a civil partnership or living together. To get a funeral payment, you must be getting Income Support, income-based Jobseeker's Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance, Pension Credit, Universal Credit or Housing Benefit. Some people getting Child Tax Credit or Working Tax Credit may also be entitled to a funeral payment.

For more information about funeral payments, see Help for people on a low income – the Social Fund.

Financial help if your husband, wife or civil partner was in the Armed Forces

If your husband, wife or civil partner died as a result of serving in the Armed Forces, you may be able to get financial help from the Service Personnel and Veterans Agency (SPVA). It does not matter whether your husband, wife or civil partner died during active service or not, as long as the death was caused by service in the Armed Forces. You may get a War Widow’s or War Widower's pension, or a guaranteed income payment (based on your spouse or civil partner's earnings), depending on when the injury, illness or death was caused.

For more information on the War Widow's or War Widower's pension, see Pension and compensation schemes for the Armed Forces, veterans and their families.

For more information on guaranteed income payments, the war pension scheme and the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme, see Healthcare for people injured in the Armed Forces and veterans.

For more information on financial help available for the Armed Forces, veterans and their families, see Benefits and concessions for the Armed Forces, veterans and their families.

If you want to claim help from the SPVA, or you want more information, you can contact the SPVA's helpline on 0800 169 22 77 (textphone 0800 169 34 58), website www.veterans-uk.info or you can email them at veterans.help@spva.gsi.gov.uk.

Extra money at Christmas

If you are getting certain benefits, you get extra money near Christmas, called a Christmas Bonus. The Christmas Bonus is a tax-free payment made a few weeks before Christmas. You will get it if you are receiving Widowed Parent’s Allowance, Widowed Mother’s Allowance, Widow’s Pension or a state Retirement Pension.

The Christmas Bonus is usually £10 a year.

You must be living in the United Kingdom, the Isle of Man, the Channel Islands, Gibraltar or the European Economic Area during the week the Christmas bonus is due. You will get the Christmas bonus automatically without having to make a claim.

To find out more about the Christmas Bonus, go to the Directgov website at www.direct.gov.uk or phone the special enquiry line on 0800 141 2591.

In Northern Ireland, go to the Nidirect website at www.nidirect.gov.uk.

If you do not get a Christmas bonus and, you think you are entitled, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, a Citizens’ Advice Bureau.

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