French pensions and probate: entitlements for widow(er)s and ex-spouses

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When dealing with the estate of a deceased who spent some time working in France, it is possible that they might have received French pensions during their lifetime. Just as in the UK, there are two types of pension: the mandatory French State pension, provided by an authority called Caisse Nationale Assurance Vieillesse (“CNAV”), and the optional workplace or private pension, which will be paid for separately.

If the deceased leaves a widow(er) and/or an ex-spouse, it is important to identify those French pension payments, as there is system called “reversionary pension” (pension de reversion), under which the deceased’s widow(er) and the ex-spouse are entitled to keep receiving part of the pension payments, but only until they remarry.

The rules detailed below apply to the French State pension. Workplace or private pensions often have reversionary pension provisions too, although the specific calculation details could differ.

Entitlement criteria

To be entitled to a reversionary pension:

  • The person claiming the reversionary pension must have been married to the deceased
  • They must be at least 55 years old
  • The deceased must have been receiving a French State pension
  • The claimant should not be earning per year above €20,300.80, if living alone, or €32 481.28 if living with a person with whom they are in a relationship. A notice explains in detail what constitutes earnings for the purpose of claiming for a reversionary pension (for example, only 70% of the income of a person aged 54 or above still in employment is used to calculate how much they earn yearly)

Value of the entitlement

A beneficiary of a reversionary pension under a French State pension is entitled to 54% of the monthly amount the deceased was receiving, which can be augmented by 10% if the claimant has had or raised at least three children. The maximum amount paid out under a reversionary pension is €882.63 per month. The minimum amount payable depends on how long the deceased had been paying the French equivalent of the National Insurance contributions:

  • If the French NI had been paid for more than 15 years, the minimum amount will be €286.14 per month
  • If the deceased had been paying French NI for less than 15 years, the minimum amount will be proportionally decreased

Sharing the reversionary pension

In the event the deceased had a spouse and an ex-spouse(s), then the reversionary pension will have to be shared proportionally between them, based on the length of each marriage.

This is an example calculation provided on the Government’s website for a reversionary pension which will be shared between a spouse and an ex-spouse:

  • First marriage lasted 121 months
  • Current marriage lasted 396 months

Total length of married life: 517 months

If the deceased was receiving a gross monthly pension of €990, the reversionary pension amount would be €534,6 (54% of the monthly pension).

Therefore, the reversionary pension to which the spouse would be entitled is: 534.6 x 396/517 = €409.48, and the ex-spouse would be entitled is: 534.6 x 121/517 = €125.12

France and the UK have an agreement in place in relation to reversionary pension claims, which must go through the DWP. However, the DWP cannot facilitate claims under any private or workplace pensions. The entitlement to the reversionary pensions ceases immediately on re-marriage, and it is vital to notify the relevant authorities as soon as possible. Each year, the beneficiaries of the reversionary pensions receive a form asking them to confirm that there has been no change in their circumstances which would impact their entitlement.

Communicating with French pension providers can be a complicated process, and a claim for a reversionary pension will involve filling out forms, often in French, and providing the required supporting documentation, which may be French documents without an equivalent in the UK.

Buckles would be pleased to assist you navigate this process and liaise on your behalf with any French pension provider.