No family is exempt from suddenly losing an element, nor from that element being precisely what most contributes to the financial stability of the household. When this happens, the State knows that there is little support left for the family, which is why Social Security created a protection mechanism: the survivor’s pension
What is the survivor’s pension?
The survivor’s pension is a monthly benefit that Social Security pays to citizens who have lost a direct family member on whom they depended for support.
Basically, in theory, the survivor’s pension serves to compensate family members for the income they have lost, since the deceased member can no longer work and help support the family.
Rules for entitlement to a survivor’s pension
Despite being supportive, the State does not offer a survivor’s pension to any citizen’s family members. They will only be entitled if the deceased person had fulfilled the guarantee period inherent to the attribution of this pension.
Thus, for the family to be able to receive the survivor’s pension, the citizen must have, at the time of death, a record of at least:
Who can receive a survivor’s pension?
Any direct relative of the deceased may be eligible to receive a survivor’s pension: the spouse, the ex-spouse, the de facto partner, the descendants and the ascendants. However, each one has to meet its own requirements.
The deceased’s spouse can only receive it if, on the date of the partner’s death, the marriage lasted more than one year. Exceptions to this rule are cases where there are already children in the relationship (even if they have not yet been born) or where the death resulted from an accident or disease contracted or manifested after the marriage.
When, at the time of death, the deceased is separated from persons and property or divorced and pays the former partner a court-ordered maintenance allowance (or does not pay it due to financial incapacity, but it has nevertheless been ordered by a court) , the ex-spouse receives a survivor’s pension from the State to compensate for the loss of alimony.
de facto united
A de facto partner may, like a spouse, be entitled to a survivor’s pension after the partner’s death. He must, however, at the time of death, have lived together for more than two years and in conditions similar to those of the spouses.
First of all, know that Social Security considers descendants of the deceased’s children, but also children not yet born and fully adopted.
Up to the age of 18, descendants always receive a survivor’s pension in the event of the parent’s death.. From the age of 18 and up to the age of 25, they only receive this support if they are enrolled in any secondary, post-secondary or higher education course or attending professional training courses.
Up to the age of 27, they only receive if they are attending master’s or postgraduate courses, preparing a bachelor’s or doctoral thesis, or doing an internship at the end of their course, as long as they do not receive a remuneration higher than two thirds of the amount of the Social Support Index (IAS) (which, in 2023, is €480.43).
Disabled descendants who, for that reason, are beneficiaries of family benefits or social inclusion benefits, have no age limit to receive a survivor’s pension.
It should also be noted that the deceased’s stepchildren may receive a survivor’s pension if, at the time of death, they received a maintenance pension from the deceased.
Descendants beyond the 1st degree (grandchildren and great-grandchildren) will only be entitled to the pension if they are dependent on the deceased beneficiary on the date of their death.
The ancestors (parents, grandparents, great-grandparents) only receive a survivor’s pension if there are no spouses, ex-spouses, de facto partners or descendants claiming the same support. Even so, if this condition is met, the ascendants are only considered eligible for a survivor’s pension if, at the time of death, they lived in table and room with the deceased.
It should also be noted that, in order to receive the survivor’s pension, ascendants cannot earn more than the social pension (or double this, if they are a couple).
How does the provisional survivor pension work?
In addition to the survivor’s pension, there is also a provisional survivor’s pension if, in addition to meeting the required conditions, the requesting family member does not receive any type of income (whether for work or for being the beneficiary of other social benefits).
Family members who receive the survivor’s pension can accumulate it with the following support they may be receiving, namely:
- Pension in its own right from the contributory regime (old-age or disability pension);
- Survivor pension from Caixa Geral de Aposentação;
- A descendant who receives a survivor’s pension from a parent or ancestor may accumulate it with another survivor’s pension from the other parent or other ascendants;
- Widow receiving survivor’s pension, can accumulate with survivor’s pension as an ascendant;
- Survival pension as a person with a disability, with family allowances or social allowance for inclusion;
- Subsidy to support the main informal caregiver.
It cannot, however, be accumulated in the following cases:
- Descendants and ascendants, with pensions that they are receiving in their own right, such as disability or old age pension;
- If you are receiving a pension for death caused by an accident at work or an occupational disease. In this case, the amount of the pension will only be what exceeds the amount of that pension;
- Indemnities resulting from death if caused by third parties, for example, in the case of a road accident. In this case, the pension is suspended until the value of the installments reaches the value of the indemnity granted, and is therefore resumed immediately after this value has been exhausted.
How to apply and how long does the concession period last?
To apply for the survivor’s pension, you must submit the Application for Death Benefits (Mod.RP5075-DGSS).
You will, however, have to submit a set of documentation that you can consult at guide provided by Social Security.
The survivor’s pension is awarded to claimant family members in the month following the death (if the application is submitted within a period of six months), or in the month following the application (if it is submitted more than six months after the death of the taxpayer).
In the case of unborn children, the survivor’s pension is awarded in the month following their birth.
Duration of the survivor’s pension
We have already seen that the duration of the descendants’ survivor’s pension depends on age and educational background. Spouses, ex-spouses and de facto partners have a variable duration also according to age, but also according to work ability and descendants.
Spouse, ex-spouse or de facto partner
If, on the date of death, the spouse is under 35 years of age, the survivor’s pension is payable for five years or until the calendar year in which the deceased’s descendants eligible for the survivor’s pension are no longer dependent on him/her.
If, at the time of death, the spouse is over 35 years of age or is completely and permanently incapacitated for work, the survivor’s pension is for life.
Note that, if the spouse, ex-spouse or de facto partner formalizes a new marital relationship (marriage or de facto union), there is no longer room for payment of the survivor’s pension, regardless of whether or not they meet any of the other requirements.
Descendants receive a survivor’s pension up to the age of 18, or beyond that age according to the school framework, having to provide proof of continuation of studies, in order to maintain it.
Descendants will no longer benefit from the pension if they start working or stop studying (except for the case of not being able to enroll in higher education due to the number of clauses – in this case they are entitled to one more year, having to continue the studies in the following year).
In the case of suffering from total and permanent disability, the pension is for life.
How much do you receive?
The amount that Social Security pays as a survivor’s pension depends on the reference value: that which the deceased received (or would have been entitled to receive, at the time of death) as a disability or old-age pension.
Of this amount, different family members receive different percentages (note that these amounts are subject to IRS withholding according to tables in force):
Spouse/ ex-spouse/ de facto partner
If it’s just one, get 60% of the reference value. If there is more than one applicant (for example, a spouse and an ex-spouse), they all share 70% of the reference value among themselves equally.
Here it is important to point out that, in the case of ex-spouses and separated from persons and property, the survivor pension cannot be higher than the maintenance pension they received when the taxpayer was alive.
If it’s one, receives 20% of the reference value; if there are two, they receive 30% (to be divided equally). Three descendants make the value rise to 40%, also divided into equal parts.
Here, too, there is a special rule: if, in addition to the descendants, there is no spouse or ex-spouse entitled to a survivor’s pension, these percentages are doubled (they become 40% for one descendant, 60% for two and 80% for three).
In the same logic as descendants, ascendants receive more the more they are: 30% of the reference value if there is only one; 50% if two, 80% if three. In the last two cases the amounts are also divided into equal parts.
In all cases, there is still room for the payment of holiday and Christmas subsidies (in July and December, respectively), in the amount of an additional monthly installment for each.
Article originally published in July 2019. Last updated in January 2023.