Knowing about Social Security survivor benefits can help you plan for your family’s well being after your death. Social Security survivor benefits may be available for your child, grandchild, dependent parent, widow, widower or divorced spouse, according to the federal government's Social Security website. When you pay your Social Security taxes, part of that amount goes into a survivors' insurance program for workers and their families.
The widow or widower of a worker who has paid Social Security taxes may be eligible to receive the worker's Social Security retirement benefits any time after he or she turns 60. If you take survivor's benefits before reaching your full retirement age (which varies depending on what year you were born), your benefit will be less per month than if you wait until you reach full retirement age.
A widow or widower of a worker may begin receiving Social Security survivor benefits at age 50 if he or she is disabled, the disability began before or within seven years of the worker's death and the disabling medical condition meets Social Security's definition of disability.
The widow or widower of a worker who has paid Social Security taxes may receive survivor benefits at any age if he or she takes care of the worker's child who is under the age of 16 or is disabled and receives Social Security benefits on the worker's record.
If the widow or widower of a deceased worker remarries after age 60 (or after age 50 if he or she is disabled), he or she is still eligible to receive survivor benefits. If the widow or widower remarries before age 60 (or age 50 if disabled), he or she cannot receive survivor benefits for as long as the marriage lasts.
The divorced spouse of a worker who dies could be eligible for the same benefits as a widow or widower if the marriage lasted 10 or more years.
A widow or widower who was already receiving his or her own Social Security benefits when his or her spouse died may be eligible for survivor's benefits that would be more than the benefit the spouse received based on his or her own work record. If this is the case, the survivor will receive a combination of benefits based on his or her Social Security and survivor's benefits. The widow or widower should call or visit a Social Security office to discuss his or her particular case and find out how to get the largest benefit to which he or she is entitled. For more information, call 1-800-772-1213.
Tanya Lee is a professional writer with more than 30 years experience. She has published extensively in the field of education and as a journalist, the latter in such publications as "High Country News" and "News from Indian Country." Lee holds a M.Ed. from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.