When Can You Receive a Widow's Pension?

Pension plans are designed to provide a benefit payment to your spouse for his lifetime. But, most pensions also provide for beneficiary payments to widows. These spousal beneficiary payments give you the money you need to stay in your home, and pay important bills and other expenses.


A pension plan offers several options for beneficiary payments. First, a lifetime benefit payment provides money for your spouse for his lifetime. When he dies, the pension payment stops. You receive nothing. The beneficiary options allow your spouse to take a reduced pension payment so that she can receive either 50, 75 or 100 percent of her spouse's pension plan payment.


As long as your spouse has elected the spousal beneficiary option, you'll receive a lifetime payment from the pension plan. You will receive this pension benefit payment as soon as your spouse dies. You may need to apply for this benefit payment with the pension plan, by submitting a beneficiary distribution form. This form may be obtained from your spouse's pension plan administrator, but it should normally be sent out to you upon the death of your spouse. There should be no interruption between the last payment received when he was alive and your next pension benefit payment.


If your spouse elected a lump-sum distribution or a lifetime payment with no beneficiary option, you can't receive anything from the plan. Unfortunately, you'll be left with no further income from the plan. There's nothing you can do about this. You would have had to sign a consent or waiver of benefits when your spouse chose the lifetime payment without beneficiary payments or lump sum option. This form waived all future benefit payments to you so that your spouse would receive his full pension payment.


You should have a serious talk with your spouse if he is still alive. If possible, encourage him to leave some money behind for you. If a lifetime pension payment is already selected, or a lump-sum payment was taken, then your spouse should set aside money from this payment or lump sum for you. A life insurance policy could be purchased to provide sufficient income for you after his death.