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Widow's Pensions in France

Tuesday 06 December 2016

Surviving spouses of a former business owner in France may be entitled to a widow’s pension, the amount of which depends on a range of factors.

The widow’s pension is called a pension de reversion.

In practice, a widow may be entitled to two pensions - a basic pension and a complementary pension.

Basic Pension

The basic pension is called the pension de reversion du régime de base.

Entitlement to this pension depends on four main factors:

i. Marital Status - First, it is payable only to the surviving married spouse of a business owner (or salaried employee), which means those in a civil partnership or who were living in free union have no entitlement.

ii. Deceased Entitlement - Second, an entitlement only exists where their deceased spouse would have been entitled to a French pension. This may not be an unimportant point for many expatriates in France who have set themselves up as a micro-entrepreneur, for a minimum level of turnover is required each year to obtain points towards a pension. You can read more in our article Pension Rights of Micro-Entrepreneurs.

iii. Minimum Age - Third, the surviving spouse must be at least 55 years of age; below this age they may be entitled to other forms of financial support, subject to a variety of conditions.

iv. Personal Income - Finally, the full pension is also only payable subject to the surviving spouse (including their fiscal household) not having a gross income greater than €20,113, a figure that is revised each year.

Certain income is excluded from this above calculation, notably the pension payable under the complementary pension scheme described below, investment and rental income that was previously part of the joint income of the couple, and any capital sum payable under an assurance vie policy.

The amount of the basic pension is 54% of the pension sum to which their deceased would have been entitled, subject to a minimum and a maximum sum. The percentage increases to 60% for those over 65 with monthly income less than €640.

The minimum sum is €3,405 pa and the maximum sum €10,426 pa.

These figures are only guaranteed provided the deceased had paid at least 15 years' pension contributions; less than 15 years the pension is reduced on a proportional basis.

In determining the amount of the widow's pension payable the pension is reduced if their total eligible income exceeds €20,113.

Thus, for example:

  • A widow with a personal annual income of €17,000 pa.
  • The retirement pension of their deceased was €15,000 pa, thereby giving an entitlement to a widow's pension of €8,100 pa (54% of €15,000).
  • That gives potential total income of €25,100 (€17,000 + €8,100).
  • The ceiling for 2016 being €20,113, the widow's pension is reduced by €4,987 (€25,100 - €20,113).
  • That gives a widow's pension of €3,113 pa.

Complementary Pension

The complementary pension is called pension de reversion du régime complémentaire.

By definition, it is granted in addition to the basic pension, subject to conditions.

The conditions that apply will depend on the insurance regime to which the deceased spouse was affiliated.

For the vast majority that regime will be the Régime Social des Indépendants (RSI).

Under the RSI scheme entitlement to a widow's pension is from the age of 55 years, on condition of being married (or divorced) to the deceased.

If the income of the surviving spouse and the household exceeds €77,232 (2016) the pension is reduced. Once again, as with the basic pension investment and rental income and assurance vie capital belonging to the couple is excluded from this calculation.

The amount payable is 60% of the complementary pension to which the deceased would have been entitled.

There are separate rules for those in one of the professions libérales, but for those who affiliate to the CIPAV, the main insurance regime for this group, no means testing applies. The amount payable is also 60% of the complementary pension of the deceased.

It should not be assumed from these figures that the amount of the pension will be high; unless the deceased made substantial pension contributions over a long period, the level of the complementary pension is relatively modest.

Application Process

Those affiliated to the RSI can make application using the Demande de Retraite de Reversion.

CIPAV affiliates can find more information at Pension de Reversion.

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