Social Security enforces the regulations that are books, not pages, resulting from more than 70 years of congressional studies and approvals. A spouse or an ex-spouse may receive benefits based on the work history of a deceased or living spouse. You must meet eligibility requirements as a spouse or ex-spouse. Qualifications include length of marriage before divorce or marriage at time of death, along with age or childcare. There is an appeal process so you can be sure to receive benefits to which you are entitled.
Deceased Worker's Eligibility
The deceased worker must qualify with sufficient work history to make Social Security available for survivors. Retirement benefits require a work history of 10 years or 40 credits of work, but as few as six credits over the three years before death may qualify survivors to receive benefits. The worker must pay into the Social Security system for retirement, disability or survivors benefits to accrue. A self-employed worker may not have sufficient income to meet the requirements, because net income is the basis for self-employment taxes
Survivors benefits provide a life insurance annuity to qualifying spouses, children or parents dependent on the deceased for support. A spouse must be unmarried to collect the deceased spouse’s Social Security benefits, unless married after age 60, or 50 if disabled. A spouse of any age caring for deceased’s child under age 16 who qualifies for Social Security benefits may receive Social Security survivors benefits based on the work history of the deceased spouse. Otherwise, the spouse must be at least age 60 to qualify for survivors benefits. An ex-spouse has the same eligibility requirements. A deceased worker’s child under age 19 and still in secondary school may receive survivors benefits on their own behalf.
If you get re-married or if your minor child no longer lives with you or is over age 16, you may no longer be eligible for Social Security survivors benefits based on your deceased husband’s work history. This does not affect collecting retirement benefits on your own work history when you are retirement age. A divorced spouse must have been married to the deceased at least 10 years unless caring for deceased’s minor child. Without a minor or disabled child, a spouse must be at least age 60, or 50 if disabled, to receive survivors benefits.
If you are employed and earn more than $14,160 in 2011, Social Security may withhold your survivors benefits for payment of penalties. This rule affects individuals who receive Social Security benefits before full retirement age. Full retirement age for survivors benefits is 66 for persons born between 1945 and 1956. For each $2 you earn in excess of $14,160, Social Security withholds $1. Your benefits resume once you catch up on penalties.