Widow’s pension — What do I need to know?

12 questions and answers on survivors’ pension entitlements

On average, women live longer than men, but they are often worse off when it comes to pensions. What happens to a man’s pension entitlements if he dies before his wife? We list the most important facts about survivors’ pensions for widows and tell you what other forms of financial security are available.

Statistically, women will continue to live longer than their husbands in the coming generations of retirees. According to the German Federal Statistical Office, women have a life expectancy that is several years higher across all ages. What about the financial security of widowed women? We answer twelve frequently asked questions about widows’ pensions and the like.

1. Am I entitled to a widow’s pension?

A woman looks at a photo album

If a spouse or partner dies, the surviving partner is usually entitled to a survivor’s pension from the German pension insurance. This pension is also called a widow’s pension or widower’s pension, depending on who receives it.

In order for you to receive a widow’s pension as a surviving spouse, the following conditions must be met:

  • You were married to the deceased until his or her death or had a registered civil partnership with him or her. Whether or not you actually lived together does not matter.
  • Your partner was already drawing a pension or was insured in the statutory pension insurance for at least five years before the death (waiting period). In the event of death due to an accident, for example, the waiting period does not apply.
  • You were married for at least one year. If your spouse or partner dies, for example, in an accident at work, you are entitled to a pension even if the marriage lasted for a shorter period.
  • You did not opt for pension splitting during your marriage. (In pension splitting, pension entitlements from the marriage period are divided equally between both partners and the entitlement to a widow’s or widower’s pension does not apply).
  • You do not remarry.

What many women don’t know: Even as a divorced woman, you may be entitled to benefits after the death of your ex-husband or ex-wife. You will receive the so-called child-raising pension if you are raising minor children or are responsible for the care of a disabled child — without age limit. In this case, however, you must, among other things, have been insured in the pension insurance scheme yourself for at least five years before the death of the divorced spouse or partner.

2. Does the old or the new law apply to me?

At the beginning of 2002, the law on survivors’ pensions was reformed. However, for most survivors, the old rules are still applied for reasons of protection of confidence.

The old law applies to:

  • Women whose partner died before January 1, 2002.
  • Women whose partner died after December 31, 2001, but who married before January 1, 2002, and where one of the spouses was born before January 2, 1962.

The new law applies to:

  • Women who married after 2002.
  • Women who married before 2002 but who, like their partner, were born after January 1, 1962.

3. Am I also entitled to the large widow’s pension?

You now know whether the old or the new law applies to you? Then the next step would be to clarify whether you are entitled to the large or the small widow’s pension.

If at least one of these criteria applies to you, you will receive the large widow’s pension:

  • You have reached the age limit applicable in the year of your partner’s death.
  • You are incapacitated for work or have been incapacitated for work without interruption since December 31, 2000.
  • You are raising your own child or a child of the deceased under the age of 18.
  • You are caring for a disabled child who cannot care for himself or herself (the age of the child is irrelevant here).

If you do not meet any of the criteria, you will receive the small widow’s pension.

Age limit for the large widow’s pension

The age limit for receiving the large widow’s pension increases gradually to 47 years (in parallel with the increase of the statutory retirement age to 67 years).

Year of death of your partner You will receive the large widow’s pension when you reach this age
2019 45 years, 8 months
2020 45 years, 9 months
2021 45 years, 10 months
2022 45 years, 11 months
2023 46 years
2024 46 years, 2 months
2025 46 years, 4 months
2026 46 years, 6 months
2027 46 years, 8 months
2028 46 years, 10 months
From 2029 47 years