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Social Security Spousal Benefits After Death

Who Can Claim Benefits From My Record

If Your Spouse Dies, Can You Collect Their Social Security Benefits?

Auxiliary benefits are divided into two categories: those that kick in before a workers death and those that go to the workers survivors. The second kind of benefits are often called survivor or Social Security death benefits. Here are the rules:

While youre alive, your spouse and any ex-spouse become eligible to claim spousal benefits from your record, beginning when they turn 62. In order for your husband or wife to claim Social Security spousal benefits you must have already claimed your primary benefits. Divorced spouses, though, can begin claiming benefits on their exs record whether or not the ex has filed for retirement benefits.

Minor children and disabled children of any age who became disabled before age 22 are also eligible to receive auxiliary benefits if their retired parent has started claiming primary benefits.

After a worker eligible for primary Social Security benefits dies, a few classes of protected individuals are entitled to claim auxiliary survivor benefits . The folks with this kind of Social Security eligibility include:

What If I Remarry

If you wait until age 60 to remarry , your new civil status wont affect your eligibility for survivor benefits. Again, lots of people leave money on the table by making big life decisions without consulting the Social Security cut-offs. Our advice: dont get remarried at age 59-and-11-months if you can wait until age 60!

How Do You Qualify For Survivors Benefits

If you are 60 or older and were married to the deceased for at least nine months prior to his or her passing, you qualify for survivors benefits. These benefits are not limited to surviving spouses, though. All of the following other types of familial relationships may also be eligible:

  • A widow or widower caring for the deceaseds child who is under age 16 or has a disability and is receiving childs benefits
  • An unmarried child under the age of 18
  • A child 18 or older who has a disability that began before turning 22
  • Certain surviving divorced spouses
  • Stepchild, grandchild, step-grandchild or adopted child
  • Parents of the deceased who are 62 or older and relied on the deceased for at least half of their financial support

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Who Is Eligible For Spouse Survivor Benefits

Many surviving spouses are eligible for monthly benefits from Social Security, based upon their age, disability, children at home, or some combination thereof. In general, spouse survivor benefits are available to:

  • Surviving spouses, who were married at least 9 months, beginning at age 60. Benefit amount may depend on the age at which you file for benefits. Note: there are multiple exceptions to the 9 month requirement.
  • Disabled surviving spouses, who were married at least 9 months, beginning at age 50. Benefit amount may depend on the age at which you file for benefits. Note: there are multiple exceptions to the 9 month requirement.
  • Surviving spouses, of any age, caring for the deceaseds child aged 16 or younger or disabled.
  • Former spouses, who were married at least 10 years, beginning at age 60. Benefit amount may depend on the age at which you file for benefits.

What Do You Need To Claim A Social Security Survivor Benefit

Social Security Spousal Benefits: What You Need to Know

When you apply for Social Security survivor benefits you will need to take a number of documents with you.

  • Proof of death, either from a funeral home or death certificate
  • Your Social Security number, as well as that of your deceased spouse
  • Your birth certificate
  • Your marriage certificate, if you are a widow or widower
  • Any dependent childrenâs Social Security numbers and birth certificates
  • Your deceased spouse’s W-2 forms or federal self-employment tax return for the most recent year
  • The name of your bank and your account number so your benefits can be paid into your account

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Will Social Security Auxiliary Benefits Pay For My Yacht

Nope. The exact monthly payment that you can expect in auxiliary benefits depends on a constellation of factorshow much your spouse made while working, how much you made, how old your spouse was at the time of claiming benefits, how old you are when you claim, whether other people in your family are claiming benefits from the same record, whether you are subject to the Family Maximum Benefit ruleThe list goes on.

One things for certain, though. You cant expect Social Security benefits either primary benefits or auxiliary benefits, to set you up for decades of living off caviar and champagne.

Social Security is a form of enforced savings and insurance designed to keep older folks out of poverty, not make them rich. It should be part of your retirement plan, not all of it.

Our advice? Start thinking about Social Security and other retirement issues earlier rather than later. That way, youll have time to consider your options and discuss them with your family. Taking Social Security benefits early, meaning before full retirement age or before age 70 if you want to take advantage of Delayed Retirement Credits doesnt only reduce your benefits. Remember, it also reduces the survivor benefits that your spouse will be entitled to after you die. If you make a lot more money than your spouse its particularly important for you to work out a Social Security strategy.

Can I Collect My Ex

Another question frequently asked is, Can I collect social security from my ex-husband if I remarry? The answer to this question varies. If your ex-spouse is still alive, you cant collect social security benefits as a divorced spouse.

Thats because your new marriage voids your eligibility to your former partners social benefits as long as they are alive.

If you were applying for spousal social security and suddenly married another person, Social Security will terminate your request. You have to report any changes to your marital status to social security.

However, If your ex-husband or ex-wife is deceased, you can remarry and continue collecting spouse social security from their earnings record. Remember you must be 60 years or older when you remarry or 50 years or older if you are disabled.

The following situations can allow you to receive spousal social security the record of a living former spouse if you remarry:

  • You remarried the same person
  • If your new husband is already receiving a type of social security, including survivors benefits, divorced-spouse benefits, and childhood disability benefits.

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What About The Government Pension Offset

The Government Pension Offset reduces auxiliary Social Security benefits for people who earn a pension from federal, state or local government work they did and for which they did not pay Social Security taxes. The GPO lowers your spousal or survivor benefit by $2 for every $3 you get from a government pension.

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Pamela Rodriguez is a Certified Financial Planner®, Series 7 and 66 license holder, with 10 years of experience in Financial Planning and Retirement Planning. She is the founder and CEO of Fulfilled Finances LLC, the Social Security Presenter for AARP, and the Treasurer for the Financial Planning Association of NorCal.

Social Security benefits can help provide a stream of income for retirement or if someone becomes disabled and can no longer work. A Social Security beneficiary is someone who receives Social Security or Supplemental Security Income payments. When a beneficiary passes away, there are certain steps that must be taken to cancel benefits or transfer the payments to an eligible survivor.

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How A Child Receives The $255 Social Security Death Benefit

The child of a deceased Social Security recipient can receive the payment if there is no eligible surviving spouse. The child would need to meet one of the following requirements:

  • The child was receiving Social Security benefits on the deceaseds record during the month they died.
  • That child became eligible for benefits when the individual passed away.

What You Should Know About Full Retirement Age

As soon as you clock at age 62, you can apply and start receiving your social security benefit after divorce. You will only be getting half of the full social security at this age. In other words, your benefits will be reduced by a certain percentage monthly till your full retirement age.

However, you are eligible for the full benefits when you reach your full retirement age, between 66 and 67. If you delay your social security benefits till the full retirement age of age 70, your benefit amount automatically increases.

To know how your social security will be affected if you start receiving benefits from age 62 till your full retirement age, check the following table as given by the social security administration:

Normal retirement age

1960 after 67

If you were born before February, you should check the previous year. That means if your date of birth falls on Jan. 1, your social security is calculated as if you were born in December of the last year.

Generally, it is best to reach your full retirement age before taking your spousal social security. Longer delays of your social benefits after your full retirement age attract delayed retirement credits. This credit automatically increases your monthly benefit.

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Earnings Limit On Survivor Benefits

If you file for any Social Security retirement benefit before your full retirement age, there is a limit to how much you can earn. The fact that this also applies to survivor benefits will often catch individuals by surprise.

If you are under full retirement age you are limited to $19,560 in wages or net earnings from self employment. If you exceed that limit, your benefit will be reduced by $1 for every $2 you go over. The one exception is the calendar year you turn full retirement age. For that period, your limit is a much higher $51,960. The amount theyll reduce your benefit by is more generous as well.

Once you are full retirement age, there is no limit to the amount you can earn while drawing Social Security. You can read my article on the Social Security earnings limit or watch my video.

NOTE: Although the SSA uses a slightly different table for determining FRA for survivor benefits, the earnings limit is always tied to FRA for retirement benefits.

How To Qualify For Survivor Benefits

Social Security Survivor Benefits for a Spouse


Spousal benefits and survivor benefits are calculated differently. If your spouse died, you could qualify for survivor benefits if:

  • You were married to the deceased person for at least nine months.
  • You are at least 60 years old, unless you are disabled or caring for the deceased persons child, who is under age 16 or disabled.


If your ex-spouse died, you could qualify for survivor benefits as well, if:

  • You had been married for 10 years or more before divorcing.
  • You are at least 60 years old, or age 50 if youre totally disabled or are caring for a child from the previous marriage who is under age 16 or disabled.

Note: Unlike with spousal benefits, remarriage will not affect your eligibility for survivor benefits, as long as you remarried at age 60 or later, or age 50 if youre totally disabled.

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Claiming Survivors Benefits At 60

Rodney is age 58 and plans to retire at age 60. His primary insurance amount at age 66 and 6 months is $2,200. His wife Helen passed away last year at age 56 with a PIA of $1,800. At age 60, Rodney applies to receive a reduced monthly survivors benefit of $1,287. He continues to receive the survivors benefits until age 70 when he can collect the maximum based on his own earnings record, which has grown to $2,816 per month.

Beware The Blackout Period

As noted earlier, a widow or widower generally doesn’t qualify for their benefits until age 60. However, that person can collect payouts as the caregiver for the deceased’s children until they turn 16.

Children qualify for benefits until they turn 18 . But between the child’s 18th birthday and the spouse’s 60th birthday , no one in the family is eligible to collect. That’s what’s known as a blackout period.

For example, a woman is left widowed at the age of 30 with a two-year-old son. As her son’s caregiver, she is entitled to collect Social Security benefits for 14 years, until his 16thbirthday. After that, her son continues to receive his survivor benefits for two more years, until he’s 18. His mom will be 48 at that point, leaving the family ineligible for any payments until her widow’s benefits become available when she’s 60. In this case, the Social Security blackout period lasts 12 years.

One possible solution is for families to make sure they have adequate life insurance to support a surviving spouse during any blackout period. Take, for instance, a couple, both 31 years old, who recently had a child. If either parent dies, the surviving spouse is eligible to collect benefits until they are 47 years old . If they both buy 30-year term life insurance policies and keep up with the premiums, they’ll be assured of coverage until age 61one year after Social Security eligibility is reinstatedin case one of them dies.

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Minor Or Child With A Disability

If you are the unmarried child under age 18 of a worker who dies, you can be eligible to receive Social Security survivors benefits. You can also be eligible, if you are up to age 19 and attending elementary or secondary school full time.

Besides the worker’s natural children, their stepchildren, grandchildren, step grandchildren, or adopted children may receive benefits under certain circumstances.

Lump Sum Death Benefit

Social Security Survivor Benefits: Claiming based on a deceased spouse or ex-spouse

First, lets deal with the one-time payment formerly called a funeral benefit. Upon the death of a Social Security beneficiary, the Social Security Administration pays a lump-sum death payment of $255. Needless to say, the $255 one time payment doesnt quite cover the cost of a funeral. Its been stuck at that level for several years and inflation has significantly eroded its useful value.

There are three categories of people who may receive the death payment:

  • A surviving spouse, who was residing with the deceased spouse, or
  • A surviving spouse, who was not residing with the deceased, but was receiving benefits based upon the work record of the deceased spouse, or who becomes eligible for benefits after the death of the spouse, or
  • A surviving child, who was receiving benefits based upon the work records of the deceased parent, or who becomes eligible for benefit after the death of the parent. The payment is divided evenly among all eligible children.
  • If there are no eligible survivors in either of these three categories, then no death benefit is paid.

    Even though $255 isnt a lot, who wants to pass on money thats rightfully theirs? If the eligible spouse or child is not receiving benefits at the time of death, they must apply for benefits within two years in order to receive the death payment.

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    No But You Will Become Eligible For A New Benefit

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    To follow up on my recent column about how to receive spousal benefits based on an ex-spouses earnings record, today well take a look at what happens when your ex-spouse dies.

    Once youve begun receiving the spousal benefit, that benefit will continue for the rest of your life, or until one of the following occurs:

    • Your ex-spouse is no longer eligible for a retirement benefit.
    • You become entitled to a retirement benefit that is larger than your current benefit.
    • You become entitled to a larger spousal benefit based on a different ex-spouses record.
    • You become entitled to a survivor benefit that is larger than your current benefit.
    • You remarry.*
    • Your ex-spouse dies.

    *Remarriage will not cause spousal benefits to cease if you marry someone who is currently receiving spousal benefits, mothers or fathers benefits, survivor benefits, or disabled child benefits. If you remarry your ex-spouse and he or she has not already started receiving benefits, your spousal benefit will cease until such time as your new spouse begins receiving retirement benefits.

    The last item in the list above is what were covering today, the case of your ex-spouse dying while you are collecting spousal benefits based on your ex-spouses earnings.

    As indicated, upon the death of your ex-spouse, the spousal benefit will stop. If you are entitled to a retirement benefit based on your own earnings record , that amount of the retirement benefit will continue for you.

    Chapter : Maximizing Your Benefit

    Many people ask can I collect my deceased spouses social security and my own at the same time? In fact, you cannot simply add together both a survivor benefit and your own retirement benefit. Instead, Social Security will pay the higher of the two amounts.

    Did you Know?

    If the benefit you would receive as a survivor is higher than your own earned benefit, Social Security pays the higher of the two amounts not the two combined.

    While it can seem unfair to not be able to claim both full benefits, there are claiming strategies you can use to maximize the total Social Security benefits you receive. This includes switching from one benefit to the other. See an example from one of our users directly below.

    Making the right decision on how to maximize your own benefits depends on how much your own retirement benefit vs. survivor benefit would be, and how long you think you will be living and needing the money. It also depends on whether youre working.

    • If you are already receiving spousal benefits when your spouse dies Social Security will convert your benefit to survivors benefits, which are up to 100% of your late spouses full retirement benefit .

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