Social Security Survivor Benefits
Topics on this page
- What are survivor benefits?
- Income Eligibility
- Asset Eligibility
- Sources of Law
If your spouse worked long enough to qualify for social security, you may qualify to receive your spouse's full social security benefit. Even if you were divorced, you may qualify for benefits if you were married for at least ten years. Children under 18 are also eligible for benefits.
Many figures used to calculate Social Security survivor benefits are revised annually by the Social Security Administration (SSA), the federal agency that administers the program. These figures are usually updated in October and can be found on the SSA website.
The amount of your benefits depends upon the work record of your deceased spouse. You will receive a benefit amount percentage of your deceased spouse's benefit amount. If others also receive a benefit on your deceased spouse's work record, your benefits may be reduced if the total amount of benefits paid on a single work record exceeds a family maximum. The SSA website provides helpful planning guides for survivors and family financial planning.
If your spouse dies, you can get benefits if you are age 60 or older. If you are disabled, you can get widow’s benefits as early as age 50. Your benefit amount will depend on your age and on the amount your deceased spouse was entitled to when they died. If your spouse was receiving reduced benefits, your survivor benefit will be based on that amount.
If you are a widow with children, you may be eligible for a widow’s benefit at any age when you are caring for a child who is younger than 16 or disabled and entitled to benefits. As a widow, you also may be eligible for Medicare at age 65. If you remarry before you reach age 60 (or age 50 if disabled), you cannot receive widow’s benefits as long as that marriage remains in effect.
If you remarry after you reach age 60 (or age 50 if disabled), you will continue to receive benefits on your deceased spouse’s Social Security record. However, if your current spouse is a Social Security beneficiary, you should apply for a surviving spouse’s benefit on their record if it would be larger than your widow’s benefit. You cannot get both.
If you are divorce and your former spouse is deceased, you can receive benefits: At age 60, or age 50 if you are disabled, if your marriage lasted at least 10 years, and you are not entitled to a higher benefit on your own record. At any age if you are caring for a child who also is your natural or legally adopted child and younger than 16 or disabled and entitled to benefits. Your benefits will continue until the child reaches age 16 or is no longer disabled. You can receive this benefit even though you were not married to your ex-spouse for 10 years.
If you are the unmarried child under 18 of a worker who dies, you can be eligible to receive Social Security survivors benefits. You can receive benefits up to age 19 if you attend school full time.
And you can get benefits at any age if you were disabled before age 22 and remain disabled.
No income limits
No asset limits
You will need to apply in person at your local Social Security office. You will also need to bring documents to your appointment. For information on making an appointment and what documents to bring, please see the SSA website.
You can appeal any denial, termination, or reduction of benefits. You must file an appeal within 60 days of the date of the written notice with which you disagree.
See the SSA website for more information.