Pension Widow’s pensions: the most important points

How much is a widow’s pension? Who is entitled to receive one? We answer these and other questions in this article.

29 Mar 2021

Widow’s pension, widower’s pension or orphan’s pension: in the event of death, surviving spouses (including divorced spouses) are entitled to receive a pension to ensure financial security. In Switzerland, pillars 1 (AHV) and 2 (occupational pension) both pay widows a widow’s pension. Compulsory accident insurance and military insurance also provide a survivor’s pension.

In the following sections, this article addresses the most important questions and answers about AHV and pillar 2 survivor’s pensions.

In Switzerland, you are entitled to draw a widow’s pension if you meet certain conditions. However, these differ for AHV and occupational pension plans.

In the case of AHV, for example: married women are entitled to a pension if ...

  • ... they have one or more children (regardless of age)
  • ... they were married for at least five years and are over the age of 45

Different requirements apply to pension fund pensions: For example, women can receive a pension from the pension fund if they are responsible for the maintenance of one or more children at the death of their spouse or are over the age of 45 and were married for at least five years. Depending on the pension fund regulations, there may be less strict requirements.

If these conditions are not met, the widow receives a one-time lump-sum payment equal to three annual pensions instead of a regular widow’s pension.

Divorced women also qualify for both AHV and pension fund widow’s pensions – but different conditions apply: the widow qualifies for a pension from pillar 2 if, for example, the marriage lasted at least ten years and if the divorce decree grants her a pension or a lump-sum settlement for a lifelong pension.

The pension amount also differs depending on the pension plan. For example, the AHV pension is dependent on income. The amount of the widow’s pension is based on the following factors:

  • Eligible contribution years
  • Income, which consists of average earned income plus education and childcare credits
  • A career supplement if the deceased spouse was under 45.

The ordinary full pension for widows is between CHF 956 and CHF 1,912 per month (as of 2021), depending on the income of the deceased spouse.

The statutory pillar 2 survivors’ pension amounts to 60 percent of the retirement pension that the insured person would have been entitled to receive. However, many pension funds go further. For example, survivors’ benefits are often better and are calculated as a percentage of the insured salary.

In principle, as a woman, you are entitled to start receiving the widow’s pension on the death of your spouse or in the following month. Occupational pensions are paid out at the earliest at the end of any continued salary payment.

Entitlement to the widow’s pension ends upon remarriage, death or when the conditions are no longer met.

However, pension funds can go beyond the legal requirements in their regulations and, for example, continue to pay the widow’s pension if the remarriage takes place after the widow reaches the age of 45.

Important: If the entitlement to the widow’s pension lapses, e.g. due to remarriage, the woman must report the change to the authorities herself. Otherwise, there is a risk of expensive reclaims.

This question mainly concerns the widow’s pension from the AHV: If women are simultaneously entitled to other pensions from the AHV, e.g. disability or old-age pension, only the higher pension is paid.

In Switzerland, survivors from registered partnerships are entitled to a survivor’s pension under both the AHV and the occupational pension scheme. However, while the occupational pension fund entitlement is the same as for a widow, for AHV pensions, it is only the same as for a widower – for both men and women.

Cohabiting couples in Switzerland have only limited entitlement to a survivor’s pension: there is no entitlement to an AHV pension; for occupational pensions, it may be possible to benefit depending on the pension fund regulations.

Despite widow’s pensions, early pension planning is important

A widow’s pension alone does not provide sufficient financial security in every case – especially for same-sex or cohabiting couples.

Even if we don’t like to think about it, we should envisage such worst-case scenarios early on. This applies to your own pension provision as well as to topics such as the transmission of assets or additional protection from life insurance. It’s also worth discussing financial topics like these with your partner. Find out how to do so here.

You should also obtain information from the AHV and your pension fund

In addition to widow’s pensions, Switzerland also offers a widower’s pension for surviving men and an orphan’s pension for surviving children. Different conditions apply to these pensions.

For more information on survivors’ pensions for widows, widowers and orphans, please refer to the AHV factsheet as well as the website ahv-iv.ch. For questions about the survivor’s pension under pillar 2, it’s best to contact your pension fund.

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