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Aspa - latest info and queries

Connexion has had a lot of interest in this benefit since we first wrote about it in January - here are some of the details involved

CONNEXION has been receiving telephone calls from some readers who have experienced difficulties in explaining their interest in the aspa benefit to their mairies.

The Allocation de Solidarité aux Personnes Agées (aspa) is a benefit for people resident in France on low (total) incomes and aged over 65 (60 where you are officially incapable of work). If you earn below a certain income threshold the benefit can top your earnings up to this level.

If you worked in France – therefore have some French pension entitlement – you need to speak to your local “cram” (caisse régionale d’assurance maladie). If you have no French pension entitlement you need to apply via a service called Saspa, which is based in Bordeaux, and you do so at your mairie. In some areas the section of the mairie dealing with this is called the centre communal d'action sociale.

Some of these will know about aspa and the fact that people who did not work in France can get it via Saspa, which is part of a body called the Caisse des Dépots.

If they do not, ask them to consult On this site under the section autre public and then aspa they can see under the “conditions” that to get it through Saspa you should not have any French pension rights.

Your mairie should be able to help with queries about filling out the appropriate form.

If they are in doubt, staff at the mairie should contact Saspa on 05 56 11 33 99. This line is open 9.00 - 16.00 on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but only 13.30 - 16.00 on other weekdays. To speak to a person use the following sequence with the messages on the automated line: * - 3 - 2 - 2 (then one or two depending on the department you live in). If absolutely necessary (and this number is for mairies' use only as a last resort) they can call for further help on 05 56 11 42 86.

Please note that if, when you die, your estate (after all taxes and other debts are paid) is valued at more than €39,000 the state can recuperate the aspa paid to you on the amount that exceeds that level. For example, if your estate is €50,000 and you received €20,000 in aspa, the state will take back €11,000.

The application form
Aspa is for those aged 65 (or 60 where the person is recognised as incapable of working).

You must also be a permanent resident - for EU citizens this means at least six months in France while other people need a carte de séjour.

The form asks for details including your work history and that of your partner if you have one.

The partners’ sections include both premier and deuxième conjoint - that is first and (if there is one) second spouse. For example if a woman has been married twice, her current husband is the deuxième conjoint.

There is also a section to fill in if you have either a concubin(e) - that is a partner you live with informally - or a partenaire (pacs partner).

You are also asked to declare all forms of income for both yourself and your partner as well as property you own whether bank accounts, shares or houses etc. and formal gifts (donations) that have been received or given by you in the last ten years.

Once you start receiving aspa you are required to tell Saspa about any important changes to these, but you have to use your judgment - you do not need to mention each small fluctuation in the value of a British pension, for example. They will adjust your payments as appropriate.

It is rare for anyone to have to pay any benefit back, while alive - however there are conditions on your estate on death - see the following questions.

Some reader questions:

My mairie said they would base my entitlement on my avis d'imposition - the document I received at the end of summer 2008 relating to tax paid on 2007 income. That will not take into account my lowered income because of the recent drop in the value of the pound. P.B.

It is true an avis d'imposition is among the documents that you should supply (if you have one) which help Saspa get a picture of your income.

However they do not base the amount paid on this alone but also look at supporting documents such as bank statements or documents showing the value of your pension. “It is your current income that it is based on,” a Saspa advisor said. You are then expected to update them about significant changes up or down, for readjustment.

The application form says I need to show a relevé de carrière - what is this?

This shows any work you did in France and can be applied for from your Cram. What they are expecting here in fact is that yours will be blank, as if you are applying for aspa via Saspa you should not have built up any French state pension entitlement - in French vièrge.

I heard if I get aspa it will be deducted from my estate after I die. Is that true?

If your estate (after taxes and other debts are paid - known as the actif net successoral - which is worked out by a notaire) is valued at more than €39,000 the state can recuperate the aspa paid to you on the amount that exceeds that level.

For example, if your estate is €50,000 and you received €20,000 in aspa, the state will take back €11,000. Saspa state that where this might cause hardship, eg. to a surviving spouse, then they will discuss with the survivor a suitable solution.

Do my capital possessions have any effect on my right to aspa?

Yes. The calculations assume you get income from all your property, whether real estate (biens immobiliers) or bank accounts and shares etc (biens mobiliers), not including your main home.

To simplify matters, Saspa takes the value that all these things would make if you sold them (valeur vénale) and assumes 3% as the income for the year.

Note that included in the total of your property are gifts made to descendants in the last five years. This 3% is added to direct forms of income (like a pension) to get your total income, which is then compared with the allowable ceilings.

If we are a couple, do we fill out one form or two?

Fill out one form each, but include full details of your combined income on each one. This ensures you get the full entitlement for a couple (half paid to each person). If only one member of a couple fills out a form, the couple’s entitlement to aspa will be worked out and then divided by two before it is paid out to that one person.

The form says they might want to take out a hypothèque (mortgage right) on my house – what does that mean?

Applicants should not unduly fear their homes could be claimed after their deaths, according to the department which oversees the benefit.

Jacques Taffin of Saspa, which organises aspa allayed some readers’ concerns over mention of this mortgage on their houses as a requirement for getting the aspabenefit.

To benefit you are required to agree that after you die any benefit paid could be reclaimed out of your estate if it is worth more than €39,000 but only from the part exceeding this threshold (ie. your heirs cannot end up with less than this).

The application asks you to agree that Saspa can ask for l’inscription d’une hypothèque - this means the loan is guaranteed by a legal document signed with a notaire giving Saspa a right over your house, to sell it to recuperate the debt if it is not honoured.

However Mr Taffin said in reality it was almost never required. In several years in the job he had never heard of a case. “The law allows us to ask for one, but we invariably do not,” he said.

He confirmed that, when the estate is valued after a person’s death, the value of the main residence is not included for purposes of assessing an aspa repayment while a surviving spouse lives there. If the spouse sells the house to move to another this exoneration will continue, he said.

However if they sell up definitively, to move into a retirement home, or to stay with a relative, the repayment is likely to be due.
“Our intention is not to put the spouse out into the street,” Mr Taffin said.

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