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Surviving dependants' pensions

July 20, 2011

Makes up for lost maintenance in the form of surviving dependants' pensions paid on account of the insured person's death

Elderly Woman reading a book

Statutory pension insurance not only provides insured persons with security in old age and in the event of reduced earning capacity, it also makes up for lost maintenance in the form of surviving dependants' pensions paid on account of the insured person's death.

The statutory pension insurance system distinguishes between maximum and minimum widow's or widower's pensions.

Widows or widowers or the surviving partner in a registered civil partnership can claim a minimum widow's pension if:

  • The deceased person completed the general qualifying period;
  • The surviving spouse or partner has not remarried or entered into a new registered civil partnership since the insured person's death.

The minimum widow's or widower's pension is 25 percent of the pension of the deceased spouse or partner. It is paid for two years, unless the insured spouse or partner died before 1 January 2002 or there was a marriage or registered civil partnership at that date and either spouse or partner was over the age of 40, in which case it is paid indefinitely.

The maximum widow's or widower's pension can be claimed by the widow, widower or surviving registered civil partner of the insured person if:

  • The requirements for the minimum widow's or widower's pension are satisfied and either:
  • The surviving spouse or partner is aged 45 or older; or
  • The surviving spouse or partner has a child of his or her own or a child of the diseased and the child has not yet reached the age of 18; or
  • The surviving spouse or partner has reduced earning capacity.

The maximum widow's or widower's pension is 55 percent of the deceased person's pension. Women, and where applicable men, who have brought up children, receive a monthly supplement equal to two earnings points for the first and one earning point for the second and each additional child. Currently, each earnings point is equivalent to EUR 27.20 in western Germany and EUR 24.13 in eastern Germany.

The earlier legal position continues to apply if the spouse or civil partner died before 1 January 2002 or there was a marriage or registered civil partnership at that date and either spouse or partner was then at least 40 years old. The maximum widow's or widower's pension is then 60 percent of the deceased person's pension (without the supplement for raising children).

If a married couple divorced before 1 July 1977, the surviving spouse is entitled to a minimum or maximum widow's or widower's pension (divorced widow's or widower's pension) after the death of his or her divorced husband or wife. This applies if the remaining requirements are satisfied and the deceased person paid or was required to pay maintenance.

There is no entitlement to divorced widow's or widower's pension in eastern Germany, where long-term maintenance was only awarded in exceptional cases. There may be an entitlement to child-raising pension, however, including where the divorce was granted before 1 July 1977.

With regard to orphan's pensions, the statutory pension insurance system distinguishes between 'half orphans' (those who have lost one parent) and 'full orphans' (who have lost both parents). There is an entitlement to a half-orphan's pension if the orphan still has one parent responsible for his or her upkeep and the deceased parent has completed the general qualifying period. The half-orphan's pension is ten percent of the deceased person's pension plus a supplement based on the total length of time for which pension contributions were paid by or in respect of the deceased.

There is an entitlement to a full-orphan's pension if the orphan no longer has any parent responsible for his or her upkeep. The amount of the pension is based on the pension insurance of both parents if both completed the general qualifying period. The pension is equal to 20 percent of the sum of the pensions of the two parents plus a supplement. The supplement is based on the total length of time for which pension contributions were paid by or in respect of the deceased person who had the largest pension, less a deduction for the second largest pension. Parents responsible for an orphan's upkeep include biological parents and adoptive parents. There may also be an entitlement to an orphan's pension after the death of a step-parent or guardian (for example a grandparent) if the child lived in the deceased person's household and the deceased person provided for most of the child's upkeep.

Orphan's pensions are paid unconditionally until the orphan reaches the age of 18. Beyond the age of 18, orphan's pensions are paid up to a maximum of age 27 if the orphan:

  • Is still in education or vocational training;
  • Is in an interim period not exceeding four calendar months between two phases (for example vocational training and military service or civilian service or voluntary service);
  • Is serving a voluntary social or environmental year;
  • Is unable to provide for his or her own upkeep due to disability.

If education or vocational training is interrupted or postponed due to military or civilian service, the entitlement is extended by the corresponding length of time beyond the child's 27th birthday.

The child-raising pension is a special case among the class of pensions referred to as pensions on account of the insured person's death. It is not a pension paid out of the insured person's pension insurance, but out of the pension insurance of the person raising the child or children.

It is classified as a pension on account of the insured person's death, however, because the entitlement arises on death of a divorced spouse or past registered civil partner. Insured persons can claim a child-raising pension if they:

  • Were divorced or their registered civil partnership was dissolved (in western Germany, only divorces since 30 June 1977 apply);
  • Continue to raise a child of their own or a child of their former spouse or civil partner;
  • Have not remarried or entered into a new registered civil partnership;
  • Completed the general qualifying period prior to the death of the former spouse or civil partner.

The child-raising pension is a full pension and is equal in amount to a full reduced earning capacity pension for the insured person.