There are a number of factors to be considered when collecting a survivor benefit from Social Security. This article will explain when a spouse dies how Social Security works.
These three terms are all for the same benefit. We will use survivor benefit which is the benefit that the deceased spouse was either receiving or was eligible to receive when he or she passed away. To be eligible the spouse must have been married to their spouse for at least nine months at the time of death. The survivor is eligible to claim the greater of their own benefit or their deceased spouse’s benefit but not both. You cannot collect your deceased spouse’s Social Security and your own.
If you were divorced from your ex-spouse at the time of their death you may still be eligible for the survivor benefit.
The amount of survivor benefit you will receive depends on if you or your spouse were receiving or had not started receiving Social Security benefits.
You can receive as a survivor benefit the greater of the amount your spouse was receiving or 82.5% of your spouse’s full retirement age benefit. Of course, you can receive just your benefit if it is greater than the survivor benefit. Learn what is the full retirement age for SS benefits.
You can receive what the deceased spouse was receiving at the date of their death.
You would receive the deceased spouse’s full retirement age benefit. Of course, if your benefit is greater you can receive your benefit rather than the survivor benefit.
You are entitled to receive the deceased’s benefit as if they filed on the date of death.
If you and your spouse had both already started claiming, the higher benefit amount becomes the survivor benefit, and the lower of the two benefit amounts will be stopped.
The survivor benefit lasts until the surviving spouse passes away. Learn how long it takes to get approved for SS benefits.
Since the higher benefit amount passes along to the surviving spouse should the higher earning spouse die first, it is very important to consider this factor when deciding when to claim your benefits. The higher earner should delay as long as they can up to age 70 to optimize and possibly maximize your benefit amounts over your lifetimes. The difference in ages, health of spouses and financial needs also should be considered.
If you are eligible for a survivor benefit before you reach your full retirement age, you can select the survivor benefit and delay receiving your benefit should it exceed the survivor benefit before or upon reaching age 70. You can collect the survivor benefit at age 60 and then let your benefit increase until age 70. You could switch to your benefit once it exceeds the survivor benefit or let it continue to increase until your reach age 70.
The opposite option is also available. If your deceased spouse had not claimed their benefit and if you have reached age 62 you could claim your benefit. When your spouse’s benefit is fully maximized upon them reaching age 70 you could then switch and claim the survivor benefit.
If you are divorced but were married to ex-spouse for at least ten years and did not remarry before age 60, then you are eligible for the survivor benefit when your ex-spouse passes away, even if they have remarried. Also, if you are caring for their child, and the child is under age 16, the ten-year marriage requirement is waived.
You need to consider the survivor benefit when each of you make your decision of when to claim your own Social Security benefit. The higher benefit lasts until the second spouse passes away so it is important to maximize the greater Social Security benefit.
Upon the death of a spouse or ex-spouse you could be eligible for a survivor benefit. The amount you will receive depends on many factors including your age when you claim it and if your spouse has or has not claimed their Social Security benefit. Under certain conditions, you can also claim the survivor benefit and later switch to your benefit or vice versa.
There are many options available when you qualify for a survivor benefit. You need to carefully consider your options before making a final decision. In fact, you need to consider the survivor benefit when each of you make your original Social Security claiming decision.
Can surviving spouses collect deceased Social Security?
A surviving spouse can collect the benefit of their deceased spouse. Upon death of their spouse they will be eligible to receive the greater of their own benefit or their deceased spouse’s benefit. You only receive the greater benefit and not both benefits.
When can a widow collect her husband’s Social Security?
A widow qualifies to collect her husband’s Social Security benefit if the survivor is at least age 60 and was married for at least nine months at the time of death. In certain circumstances the widow will receive benefits earlier than age 60. If you have children from the marriage that you are caring for who are under age 16 or are disabled you can apply for survivor benefits at any age. You also can qualify for survivor benefits if you are at least age 50 and are disabled and the disability occurred within seven years of your spouse’s death.
What percentage of Social Security benefits does a widow receive?
The amount of benefit you receive depends on your age when you first claim it. If you claim this benefit before reaching your full retirement age the benefit is permanently reduced for the rest of your life. Once you decide to claim the survivor benefit, the benefit will stay the same except for any annual cost of living increases. If you claim as early as age 60 your benefit will be only be 71.5% of the amount if you waited until your full retirement age. If you claim the survivor benefit upon or after reaching your full retirement age you will receive 100% of the benefit your spouse was receiving.
How do I apply for my deceased spouse’s Social Security benefits?
Once the death is reported to Social Security and if you had been receiving benefits based on your deceased spouse’s working record then Social Security will probably switch you to survivor benefits. If you were receiving benefits based on your working record or not receiving benefits at all you will need to contact Social Security to apply for survivor benefits. You can apply online, by phone 800-772-1213 or in person at your local office. (Currently due to the coronavirus pandemic local offices are closed.)