Updated with 2020 rates.
What retirement benefits are available to survivors after the death of a spouse, common-law partner, or parent?
If the deceased contributed to the Canada Pension Plan (CPP), survivors may qualify for benefits including the CPP Death benefit, Survivor’s pension, and Children’s benefits.
A surviving spouse may also qualify for Old Age Security (OAS) payments in the form of a benefit referred to as Allowance for the Survivor.
1. CPP Death Benefit
The CPP Death Benefit is a one-time, lump-sum payment made to the estate of the deceased.
If an estate exists, the executor of the will or administrator appointed by the Court can apply for the death benefit. In a case where no estate exists, payment of the death benefit can be made directly to the following individuals in order of priority:
- The person or institution responsible for funeral expenses
- The surviving spouse or common-law partner
- The next-of-kin of the deceased
Eligibility and CPP Death benefit Amount
To be eligible to receive the death benefit, the deceased must have made contributions to the CPP for the lesser of one-third of the calendar years in their contributory period or 10 calendar years.
The amount received depends on how much and for how long the deceased contributed to the CPP. For 2020, the average amount paid to new beneficiaries was $2,494.01 (March 2020), with a maximum amount of $2,500.
Starting in 2020, a flat-rate of $2,500 will be paid as a death benefit to all beneficiaries irrespective of the CPP contributions made by the deceased.
2. CPP Survivor’s Pension
The CPP Survivor’s benefit is paid to the legal surviving spouse or common-law partner of the deceased. If the deceased’s legal spouse are separated and the deceased had no other cohabiting common-law partner, the surviving spouse may be eligible for the survivor’s pension.
Survivor’s Pension Amount
The amount you will eventually receive depends on a lot of factors and Service Canada’s complicated calculations. Generally, the survivor’s benefit will depend on:
- Whether you’re receiving other pension or disability benefit
- Age of surviving spouse
- Deceased spouse’s contribution to the CPP
Example 1: If the survivor is 65 years or older, and not receiving any other CPP benefits, their survivor’s pension is 60% of the deceased contributor’s pension at age 65.
As of March 2020, the average monthly amount paid as survivor’s pension to new beneficiaries who are 65 years and older was $311.33. The maximum payment amount for 2020 is $705.50.
Example 2: If the surviving spouse is between 45-64 years of age and not receiving any other CPP benefits, they will receive 37.5% of the deceased contributor’s retirement pension plus a “flat rate portion.”
For March 2020, the average monthly survivor’s pension paid to new beneficiaries who are younger than 65 years was $453.59. The maximum payment amount for 2020 is $638.28.
These are just two examples from a myriad of possible scenarios. If in doubt as to how to proceed or what to expect, contact Service Canada at 1-800-277-9914 (TTY: 1-800-255-4786).
Other Points to Note for the Survivor’s Pension:
- You can only receive one survivor’s pension, even if you survive many spouses. You will be paid whichever benefit is largest.
- You will not lose your survivor’s benefit if you re-marry.
- If you already receive other CPP benefits, all your pension benefits are combined and paid in one single monthly payment.
- The maximum total benefit you can get if receiving both the survivor’s pension and other CPP benefits is the maximum retirement pension which is $1,175.83 for 2020.
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3. CPP Surviving Child’s Benefits
The CPP Children’s benefit is a monthly payment available to dependent children of a deceased CPP contributor. To be eligible, the child must be under 18 years of age or if enrolled in school, between the ages of 18 and 25.
The child could be the natural or adopted child of the deceased.
The average monthly children’s benefit paid to new beneficiaries in March 2020 was $255.03. The maximum benefit in 2020 is $255.03.
4. OAS Allowance for the Survivor
The Allowance for the Survivor is a benefit available to surviving spouses or common-law partners who are aged between 60-64 years and have a low income.
To qualify for this benefit, you must earn $25,056 or less. The maximum monthly payment for the allowance for the survivor benefit is $1,388.92 for the July to September 2020 quarter.
Unlike CPP benefit payments, allowance for the survivor benefit is non-taxable.
How to Apply for Survivor Benefits
It’s important that you notify the government immediately after the death of a person receiving CPP or OAS benefits. If not, any payments made to the deceased after the month of death will have to be repaid.
Send in your application for death and children’s benefits and the survivor’s pension as soon as you can after the contributor’s death. This will ensure you don’t lose out on benefits.
For the Allowance for the Survivor benefit, apply 6 to 11 months before your 60th birthday. A surviving spouse can start receiving a survivor’s pension as early as the month after the contributor’s death.
Some of the forms you may be required to complete include:
- Survivor’s pension: CPP survivor’s pension and children’s benefits application for (ISP-1300)
- Children’s benefits: Under 18 (ISP-1300) and Over 18 years (ISP-1400)
- Death benefit: ISP-1200 form
- Allowance for the Survivor: Form ISP-3008
After downloading and completing the forms, return or mail it to the nearest Service Canada Centre.
Other documentation/information required includes:
- The deceased’s social insurance number
- A certified copy of the death certificate
- Survivor’s social insurance number – spouse and children
- A certified copy of the marriage certificate – if you were married to the deceased
- A statutory declaration if you were living in a common-law relationship with the deceased.
Note: Remember to send certified photocopies of documents instead of originals. This way, you can avoid the risk of your precious documents getting lost in the mail. You can certify your documents for free at any Service Canada Centre.
This post was originally published in 2017 and is regularly updated with new information.