Overview of Social Security Widow and Widower Benefits
Social Security pays benefits to the widow or widower of a worker who worked enough to qualify for Social Security benefits. The amount of benefits that a widow or widower can receive depends upon the age, health, and family status of the widow or widower.
Amount of widow or widower’s benefit based upon amount of deceased spouse’s benefit
A widow or widower’s survivor benefit is based upon the earnings of the deceased spouse. Generally, the deceased spouse must have worked for at least 10 years in order to be eligible for Social Security benefits. If the deceased spouse received a reduced Social Security benefit, then the amount of the survivor benefit will be based on that reduced benefit amount.
Social Security widow or widower benefits for a non-disabled widow or widower without minor children
A widow or widower at the full retirement age is entitled to receive 100 percent of their deceased spouse’s Social Security benefit. A non-disabled widow or widower who is younger than the full retirement age but at least age 60 may receive a reduced Social Security benefit. The amount of the reduced benefit ranges between 71.5 percent and 99 percent of the deceased spouse’s benefit.
Social Security widow or widower benefits for a disabled widow or widower between age 50 and 59
A disabled widow or widower between ages 50 and 59 is entitled to receive 71.5 percent of their deceased spouse’s benefit. The Social Security Administration uses the same definition of disability for widows and widowers as it does for workers.
Social Security widow or widower benefits for a survivor taking care of deceased spouse’s children
A widow or widower may also receive social security survivor benefits at any age if the surviving spouse is taking care of the deceased spouse’s child who is either under age 16 or disabled and receiving benefits on the deceased spouse’s record.
Widow or widower Social Security benefits for divorced spouses
Divorced spouses of a deceased worker may collect widow or widower survivor benefits under certain circumstances. In order to collect widow or widower survivor benefits, the divorced spouse’s marriage to the deceased worker must have lasted at least 10 years. The marriage length limitation does not apply to divorced spouses who are caring for the deceased spouse’s child (biological or legally adopted) who is either under age 16 or disabled.
Social Security widow or widower benefits for a surviving spouse who remarries
A widow or widower who remarries may be able to continue receiving Social Security survivor benefits. If the widow or widower remarries before age 60 (age 50 if disabled), then the widow or widower is ineligible to receive Social Security survivor benefits on the deceased worker’s record. If, however, the widow or widower remarries after age 60 (age 50 if disabled), then the widow or widower qualifies to receive survivor benefits on the deceased worker’s record.
Maximum family survivor benefit
Social Security limits the total amount of survivor benefits that a family can receive from a deceased worker’s record. Generally, the total amount of survivor benefits cannot exceed 150 to 180 percent of basic benefit rate. If the total amount of benefits paid to family members exceeds this limit, then the family members benefits are proportionately reduced. Benefits paid to a divorced spouse do not count against the maximum family survivor benefit.