Survivors’ pension offers security for the family

After the death of a family wage earner, the income of the surviving family members is usually secured by several different social security benefits. In addition to the survivors’ pension benefits paid from the earnings-related pension scheme, the family members may be entitled to

  • the survivors’ pension from the national pension scheme,
  • a survivors’ pension paid on the basis of the employment of the deceased in EU/EEA countries or other social security agreement countries,
  • a survivors’ pension paid from the workers’ compensation insurance or the motor liability insurance, or
  • compensation from the Employees’ Group Life Insurance Pool.

The initial pension and the basic amount of the orphan’s pension paid from the national pension scheme are paid regardless of income. The continuing pension of a surviving spouse and the supplement to the orphan’s pension are income-tested.

The workers’ compensation insurance and the motor liability insurance are mandatory. Their benefits are primary in relation to earnings-related pensions. The Employees’ Group Life Insurance covers nearly all wage-earners and entitles to a flat-rate lump-sum compensation.

In addition to statutory and occupational insurance, the insurance cover may be topped up with a supplementary pension taken out by the employer, private pension insurance or life insurance.

Survivors’ pension to surviving spouse and children

There are two parts to the survivors’ pension paid from the earnings-related pension scheme: the surviving spouse’s pension and the orphan’s pension. If the deceases was insured under the Seafarer’s Pensions Act and died before the age of 67, the beneficiaries are also entitled to a funeral grant based on the age of the deceased.

Under certain conditions, the survivors’ pension is paid to the deceased person’s spouse and former spouse. Same-sex parties to a registered relationship are comparable to married spouses. The deceased person’s children under the age of 18 are entitled to an orphan’s pension.

The surviving spouse or the former spouse have the right to get a surviving spouse’s pension if:

  • the surviving spouse has, or has had, a child (biological or adopted) together with the deceased and the spouses married before the deceased reached the age of 65; or
  • the spouses married before the deceased reached the age of 65 and the surviving spouse reached the age of 50, providing
    • the marriage had continued for at least five years, and
    • the surviving spouse has reached the age of 50 at the time of the spouse’s death, or
    • the surviving spouse has been incapacitated for work for a long time.

The former spouse of the deceased may be entitled to a surviving spouse’s pension under the same conditions as the surviving spouse if the deceased was ordered to pay alimony to the former spouse on the basis of a legally valid decision.

If the surviving spouse remarries before reaching the age of 50, the pension ends.

A child (biological or adopted) of the deceased will get an orphan’s pension until the age of 18. Similarly, the orphan’s pension ends if the child is given up for adoption to another party than the surviving spouse or his or her spouse.

The biological or adopted child of the surviving spouse may have a right to an orphan’s pension if the child shared the same household with the surviving spouse and the deceased. However, the child is entitled to an orphan’s pension only after two deceased persons simultaneously.

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Number of beneficiaries affects pension amount

The basis of the survivors’ pension is the deceased person’s earnings-related pension. If the deceased did not get a pension or drew a partial disability pension or a part-time pension at the time of death, the survivor’s pension is calculated on the basis of the pension amount which the deceased would have got had they been entitled to a full disability pension at the time of their death.

As of the beginning of 2010, the life expectancy coefficient affects the old-age or disability pension that the survivors’ pension is based on.

The lump-sum increase made to a disability pension that continues for more than five years is also made to the survivors’ pension calculated on the basis of the disability pension paid to the deceased (providing the increase was not made earlier to the pension of the deceased).

The survivors’ pension is calculated based on the deceased person’s pension right and is affected by the number of beneficiaries. At most, the amount of the survivors’ pension and the orphan’s pensions is the size of the pension of the deceased.

The surviving spouse’s and the children’s share of the pension

 No of children   0  1   2     4-
 Surviving spouse’s pension  6/12  6/12  5/12  3/12  2/12
 Orphan’s pension  –  4/12  7/12  9/12  10/12
 Total  6/12   10/12  12/12  12/12  12/12

Reduction of surviving spouse’s pension

The survivors’ pension compensates for the financial loss caused by the death of the family wage earner. In order for the surviving spouse’s income to correspond to the level before the death of the other spouse, a deduction is made to the surviving spouse’s pension based on their own pension or the calculated disability pension.

The surviving spouse’s pension is reduced when one of the following is realised:

  • the youngest child turns 18,
  • a childless surviving spouse under the age of 65 has got an initial pension for six months, or
  • the surviving spouse is over 65 years or a pensioner.

The surviving spouse’s pension is reduced if their own pension amounts to more than 708.50 euros (in 2019). The amount of the deduction made to the full surviving spouse’s pension is half of the difference between the surviving spouse’s own pension and the above-mentioned limit.

In some cases, no survivor’s pension is paid because of the surviving spouse’s own income. The deduction usually affects the amount of the surviving spouse’s pension paid to the widower since, on average, men’s income is higher than women’s. Roughly 25 per cent of the male surviving spouses get no surviving spouse’s pension at all due to the deduction of the survivors’ pension. For female surviving spouses, the equivalent share is about 3 per cent.

In 2018, the average surviving spouse’s pension was 571 euros/month. On average, the surviving spouse’s pension for a male surviving spouse is one third of that for a woman.

Use the calculator to estimate how your income will affect your surviving spouse’s pension.

More information on the survivors’ pension

A working group of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health has published a study on the development of the survivors’ pension system. The making of the report was agreed on in connection with the preparations of the 2017 pension reform.

The Finnish Centre for Pensions has reviewed the status and development of the survivors’ pension scheme. The most recent report is from 2014.

Read more

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