Widows and Widowers

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. Spouses refer to opposite or sex same sex marriages in many states.

Many figures used to calculate Social Security Widow and Widowers 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 in the November issue of the Federal Register, the official government source for administrative changes. Note: the press office of the Social Security Administration issues annual updates on the Social Security cost-of-living increases. The figures are reliable and are updated each year after October 1st, based on an examination of changes in the Consumer Price Index since the previous year.

You can also find the figures on the SSA website, or by calling the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213, or TTY at 1-800-325-0778 between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. Monday - Friday.

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.



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.


Income Eligibility:



Asset Eligibility:



Apply at:


Social Security office.  Locate your Social Security Office



  • 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.
  • In addition, you have a 5 day "grace period" to allow for the mailing of the notice to you, making the total amount of time you have to file an appeal 60+5 days.
  • For more information see the Social Security Administration's website.


Source of Funds:


Social Security Trust Fund

Sources of Law:


Federal Law: 42 U.S.C. § 402(e),(f)

Federal Regulations: 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.335 - .338

Is this legal advice?

This site offers legal information, not legal advice.  We make every effort to ensure the accuracy of the information and to clearly explain your options.  However we do not provide legal advice - the application of the law to your individual circumstances. For legal advice, you should consult an attorney.  The Maryland Thurgood Marshall State Law Library, a court-related agency of the Maryland Judiciary, sponsors this site.  In the absence of file-specific attribution or copyright, the Maryland Thurgood Marshall State Law Library may hold the copyright to parts of this website. You are free to copy the information for your own use or for other non-commercial purposes with the following language “Source: Maryland's People’s Law Library – www.peoples-law.org. © Maryland Thurgood Marshall State Law Library, 2019.”