Spousal Pension Benefits in Canada

In Canada, all surviving spouses over the age of 35 are eligible for spousal pension benefits.

In Canada, almost every worker in the public and private sectors is required to contribute to the Canada Pension Plan (CPP), and those participants are eligible for pension payments after retirement till death. The minimal requirement is a contribution of three years. Every pension account in which the contributor is in a marriage or common-law relationship at the time of retirement is considered a joint pension plan.

Spousal Pension Benefits

After the death of the contributor, his surviving spouse or common-law partner is eligible to receive 60 percent of the pension amount till her death. This payment is known as the survivor's pension. Payment amounts may vary, depending on the age and health condition of the surviving partner. At the time of retirement, the contributor can also opt for higher payment percentages to the survivor after his death. In this case, the contributor will receive lower pension payments during his lifetime.

Definition of Spouse or Common-Law Partner

A spouse is a person who is legally married to the contributor at the time of retirement. A common-law partner is a person who has been living with the contributor for at least a year in a conjugal relationship. If the couple has a child or children together, the time requirement may be shorter. A separated legal spouse may also be eligible for the survivor's pension, if the contributor did not marry again, cohabit with another person for over a year or have children with another person. The same rules and responsibilities apply to people in same-sex relationships as well.

Application Process

After the death of the contributor, the surviving spouse must apply for pension benefits as soon as possible. If the delay is over a year after the death, the surviving spouse may lose benefits, because CPP only makes back payments for a year. To apply, the surviving spouse or common law partner must obtain an application kit from a funeral home or a Human Resources Canada center. The application kits are also available online at the Service Canada website.

Payment Methods

After CPP receives the application and required documentation, officials will start processing the information. The first pension payment is usually made between six and 12 weeks after the application. The surviving spouse or common law partner can choose to receive payments every month by check or by direct deposit into the survivor's bank account.

Continued Eligibility

To continue receiving the spousal pension benefits, the survivor must notify CPP of any important changes such as address or bank account. Survivors who remarry continue to be eligible for spousal pension benefits. A spouse or common-law partner under the age of 35 is not eligible for the spousal pension benefit, unless she is disabled or raising one or more of the deceased contributor's children.

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