Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion

Switzerland - Survivors' benefits

In what situation can I claim?

There are three levels of benefits paid to survivors in Switzerland. They aim to prevent you from finding yourself in need when a close relative dies (spouse, parent):

  • Benefits of the old-age and survivors' insurance (1st pillar or AVS), topped up as needed by supplementary benefits. Anybody living or engaged in paid employment in Switzerland is insured under the AVS;
  • Benefits under the occupational benefit plans, a compulsory insurance for the majority of employees (2nd pillar).
  • Benefits of the voluntary private savings plan (3rd pillar) that the insured persons may take out on an optional basis. This is encouraged through tax incentives. These benefits are also governed by contractual provisions and are not detailed in this chapter.

In the event of death following an accident, benefits are also paid to survivors under the accident insurance (see the chapter on Accident insurance).

What conditions do I need to meet?

Benefits under the basic scheme (1st pillar)

Widower's pension

If you are a widower or have lost your registered partner, you are entitled to a widower's pension while your children are under the age of 18.

Widow's pension

If you are a widow and have one or more children when your spouse dies, you may claim a widow's pension.

If you do not have any children, you are still entitled to this if you are at least 45 years old when your spouse dies and you were married for at least 5 years.

Whether a man or a woman, if you are divorced or your registered partnership has been dissolved, you are entitled to a pension under certain conditions (e.g. you have a child, divorced after the age of 45, in both cases providing that the marriage or registered partnership lasted for at least 10 years).

Entitlement to a widow's or widower's pension ceases in the event of remarriage or death.

Orphan's pension

Children who have lost one parent are entitled to an orphan's pension. If they have lost both parents, they are entitled to two orphan's pensions.

This entitlement ceases when they reach the age of 18 or at the end of their training, but no later than the age of 25.

Supplementary benefits to the 1st pillar

These are granted if your means (pensions and other income) are not sufficient to cover your basic needs.

These benefits apply to survivors as well as the elderly and disabled persons, who receive a pension through the AVS, AI or receive certain other invalidity benefits.

To receive supplementary benefits, you must be habitually resident in Switzerland. If you are a foreign national, you must have resided in Switzerland without interruption for 10 years (5 years for refugees and stateless persons).

Benefits under the occupational benefit plans (2nd pillar)

Widower's or widow's pension

As a surviving spouse (male or female) of a person insured under the 2nd pillar, you are entitled on their death to a 2nd pillar pension if you have one or more dependent children, or are at least 45 years old and your marriage lasted at least 5 years.

If you are divorced, you may also be entitled to this pension under certain conditions.

Entitlement to a widow's or widower's pension ceases in the event of remarriage or death.

In the case of a registered partnership, the surviving partner has the same rights as a widower.

Orphan's pension

Orphans' pensions are paid until the child reaches the age of 18.

The pension may be paid up to a maximum of 25 years of age if the child is studying or in an apprenticeship, or if the child is at least 70% disabled.

Pension institutions may provide more favourable terms, notably extending the number of beneficiaries (e.g. to cohabiting partners). Please refer to the regulations of the pension institution insuring the deceased to know your rights.

What am I entitled to and how can I claim?

Benefits under the basic scheme (1st pillar)

The survivors' pension is a percentage of the 1st pillar old-age pension to which the deceased would have been entitled:

Widower's or widow's pension:

80% of the old-age pension

Orphan's pension:

40% of the old-age pension

If both parents have died, orphans are entitled to two orphan's pensions. These are reduced if they exceed 60% of the maximum old-age pension.

There are minimum and maximum pension amounts:

Minimum monthly amount:

Maximum monthly amount:

Widower's or widow's pension:

CHF 940 (EUR 803)

CHF 1,880 (EUR 1,606)

Orphan's pension:

CHF 470 (EUR 401)

CHF 940 (EUR 803)

Survivors' benefits under the 1st pillar must be applied for with the appropriate compensation fund.

Supplementary benefits to the 1st pillar

If the survivor's pension under the 1st pillar and other income are not sufficient to cover the basic needs, supplementary benefits may be paid by the cantons.

These benefits include the annual supplementary benefit, paid every month, and the reimbursement of costs due to sickness and disability.

The amount of this benefit depends on each person's situation. It is calculated on the basis of your recognised expenses and determining income.

Applications for supplementary benefits must be submitted in writing to the appropriate office in your canton of residence, usually the cantonal compensation fund.

Benefits under the occupational benefit plans (2nd pillar)

The survivor's pension is a percentage of the invalidity pension to which the deceased would have been entitled:

Widower's or widow's pension:

60% of the invalidity pension

Orphan's pension:

20% of the invalidity pension

The occupational pension scheme is managed by registered pension institutions to which benefit applications must be submitted.

Jargon busters

  • AVS: old-age and survivors' insurance. The AVS is the first pillar of the old-age and survivors' scheme in Switzerland.
  • Compensation funds: compensation funds arrange the payment of various social benefits at the cantonal level. The funds are not centralised and reflect Switzerland's federal structure. There are two main types: occupational compensation funds and cantonal compensation funds.
  • Registered partnership: the registered partnership allows two people of the same sex who are not related to legalise their relationship. For its whole duration the registered same-sex partnership is treated as marriage and its judicial dissolution as divorce; the surviving registered partner is treated as a widower.

Forms you may need to fill in

Know your rights

The following links provide additional information about your rights. They are not European Commission sites and do not represent the view of the Commission:

European Commission publications:

Who do you need to contact?

Cantonal compensation funds

See the list of compensation funds by canton.

Federal Social Insurance Office (FSIO)

Effingerstrasse 20

3003 Bern

Tel. +41 584629011

Fax +41 584627880

www.bsv.admin.ch

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