Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion

Germany - Survivors' benefits

Under what circumstances am I entitled to benefits?

Widows, widowers, full orphans and semi-orphans receive survivor's pensions.

Eligibility requirements

Survivor's pensions go to:

  • surviving spouses,
  • the surviving partner of a registered life partnership and,
  • in some cases, also the divorced spouse of a person who dies,

if the deceased has fulfilled the qualifying period (minimum insurance period) of five years of contributions and contribution-equivalent periods. The qualifying period can be met sooner if the insured party has died, for example, because of an accident at work or shortly after the completion of training. The couple must have been married for at least one year for the surviving spouse to be entitled to a pension.

Children of policy holders who die receive an orphan's pension, in principle until their 18th birthday. The pension is continued until they are 27, provided that the orphan

  • remains in education or professional training or
  • is in an interim period of at the most four calendar months between two educational sections, or
  • is serving a voluntary social or ecological service year out or is carrying out voluntary military service, ((§ 32 para. 4 sentence 1 no. 2 letter b) or
  • cannot provide for their own needs because of a disability.

A semi-orphan pension is allocated when one parent is still alive; a full orphan's pension is allocated when both parents are dead.

What am I entitled to and where can I apply for the benefits?

Orphan's pension

Semi-orphans (one dead parent) receive 10% and full orphans (both parents dead) 20% of the pension which the deceased parent(s) would have received. They receive an orphan's supplement on top of the pension. If the insured father or mother died before the age of 63, the orphan's pension is curtailed by up to 10.8%.

Deduction of income:

Income of the survivors such as earned income, yield on capital and other income are partially deducted from the pension. The monthly exempt value that is not deducted from the pension is linked to the current pension value. For survivors and beneficiaries bringing up the child, it is 26.4 times the current pension value. If personal income is higher than the exemption, 40% of the surplus net income is deducted from the survivor's pension. For orphans nothing is deducted.

Calculation of widow and widower pensions:

Widows or widowers usually receive 25% of the total which the deceased would have received for a disability pension for two years at most (known as the small widow or widower pension).

Survivors receive 55% of this amount if they

  • are bringing up children;
  • are 45 years and older (from 2012, this is rising gradually to 47 by 2029) or
  • themselves have reduced earning capacity (the so-called big widow or widower pension).

Widows and widowers who have raised children receive a supplement. If the couple is divorced, there is normally a maintenance settlement that takes into account later pension claims (pension rights).

Pension splitting

Spouses and partners in a registered life partnership may split their claims to a survivor's pension between them in a contract which must be signed by both. This is possible if

  • both spouses each have at least 25 years pension qualifying time and
  • the couple married in 2002 or later and/or
  • both partners were younger than 40 at the time of the wedding.

This also applies to partners living in a registered partnership.

Application forms

Your rights

European Commission publications:


Further information

  • You can obtain free advice and information from the pension providers. For most people in Germany, this is the Deutsche Rentenversicherung with offices in the larger cities.
  • You can find their addresses at http://www.deutsche-rentenversicherung.de/
  • You can obtain information by telephone on the toll-free number 0800 1000 4800
  • The Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs

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