Widows and widowers are entitled to Social Security benefits from their deceased spouse equal to the collection amount at the time of death, or the potential entitlement amount if the spouse had not yet applied for the benefit. In order to best advise their clients, accountants and attorneys should understand the laws that govern this benefit.
Widows and widowers are not confined by a time frame during which they need to apply for the benefit; however, there are some eligibility restrictions and considerations to be aware of regarding the state of the marriage at the time of death:
Married at Time of Death
- Marriage must have lasted for at least 9 months prior to death; and
- Widow/widower cannot have remarried before turning age 60 (or age 50 if disabled).
Divorced at Time of Death
- Marriage with deceased must have lasted for more than 10 years;
- Widow/widower has not remarried;
- The widow/widower cannot apply until he/she turns age 62 (or age 50 if disabled); and
- Even if the deceased spouse remarried, the divorced widow/widower can still collect.
Extent of Benefit
Depending on the circumstance, a widow or widower may be entitled to an amount between 71.5% and 100% of the benefit.
- Full retirement age* or beyond: 100%
- Between 60 and full retirement age: 71.5% to 99%
- Any age, so long as they are caring for a child under the age of 16: 75%
- Disabled, then between age 50 through 59: 71.5%
*Full retirement age is a fixed number determined by the IRS. Currently, the retirement ages are as follows:
- Born 1937 or earlier: Age 65
- Born between 1938 and 1942: 65 plus 2 months, and an additional 2 months for every year after 1938
- Born between 1943 and 1954: Age 66
- Born between 1955 and 1960: Age 66 plus 2 months, and an additional 2 months for every year after 1955
- Born 1960 or later: Age 67
People are living longer and, as a result, it is important to be financially protected and prepared. Please contact us if you have any questions about receiving a deceased spouse’s Social Security benefits.