In Canada, there is a government-run social insurance program called Canada Pension Plan (CPP). Workers who contribute over the years become eligible for disability, retirement and survivor benefits. While disability and retirement benefits are available during the contributor's lifetime, survivor's benefits are only available after death. While the benefits become available to the surviving family, there are conditions and restrictions.
CPP survivor benefits come in three types. The death benefit is a one-time payment to, or on behalf of, the estate of deceased CPP contributors. The survivor's pension is a monthly pension that is paid out to the surviving spouse or common-law partner. Lastly, the children's benefit is a monthly benefit for the dependent children of a deceased contributor.
In order for surviving family to receive benefits, the contributor must have been contributing for 10 calendar years, or one third of the calendar years in his contributory period. There is a minimum three-year requirement to qualify.
Applying for Survivor's Benefits
Surviving family of deceased contributors must apply in order to receive benefits. This should be done as soon as possible, as CPP only makes back payments for up 12 months. Anyone widowed more than once only receives one survivor's pension, typically the largest one.
Each part of the survivor's benefits has eligibility requirements. The death benefit is paid to the estate of the deceased. If there is no estate, the person responsible for funeral expenses, the surviving spouse or common-law partner and next of kin may be eligible, in that specific order. In the case of a survivor's pension, only the legal spouse or common-law partner (including same-sex, common-law partners) at the time of death is eligible. If the deceased has no cohabiting common-law partner, the separated legal spouse may also qualify. Children's benefits are paid to the dependent natural or adopted children of the deceased, or to children in the care and control of the deceased at the time of death. Children are only eligible if under the age of 18, or under the age of 25 and in full-time attendance at a school or university.
Survivor's Pension Payments
How much a surviving spouse or common-law partner receives depends on a number of factors. These include whether or not the surviving spouse or common-law partner are themselves drawing CPP disability or retirement pension benefits, how long the deceased paid into the plan and the age of the spouse or common-law partner's age at the time of the contributor's death.
Remarrying does not end survivor's benefits, nor does the marriage of a contributor's child, provided she maintains the other eligibility criteria.
If the survivors are already receiving CPP retirement pensions or disability benefits, they can be combined with the survivor benefits into a single payment, under certain restrictions. The combined pensions maximum payout will be equal to the maximum benefit for disability or retirement, depending on which other pension the survivor is drawing from. Also, the total amount paid from combined CPP benefits is adjusted based on the survivor's age and other benefits received.
There are numerous other restrictions, regarding the time when the survivor's pension stops, applications for benefits, and other important considerations. For a full list of these conditions and considerations, it is recommended that you contact Service Canada for more details.
Service Canada Ottawa, ON, Canada K1A 0J9 800-622-6232 servicecanada.gc.ca