It is important to understand the benefits that a surviving spouse may be entitled to when the deceased spouse passes away. If you are the surviving spouse, you may be entitled to benefits based on your deceased spouse’s earnings. Furthermore, the benefits a surviving spouse may receive are based on age.
A surviving spouse may be able to receive full benefits at retirement age. Social Security provides that the full retirement age for a survivor is age 66 for people born in 1945-1956 and will gradually increase to age 67 for people born in 1962 or later. Reduced benefits for surviving spouses can be received as early as age 60. Additionally, if the surviving spouse is disabled, the surviving spouse may collect a social security survivor’s benefit as early as age 50.
Further, a surviving spouse may collect social security survivor’s benefits if the surviving spouse is caring for a child of the deceased who is under the age of 16.
Benefits are also available for divorced spouses. If you have been divorced and are age 60 or older (50-59 if disabled), you can receive benefits if your marriage lasted at least 10 years. If you are caring for the decedent’s child who is younger than age 16 or is disabled, the length of marriage rule does not apply.
A one-time death payment of $255 is also available to the surviving spouse. This lump sum death benefit must be filed within 2 years of the date of decedent’s death.
The total benefits available to a surviving spouse ultimately depend on the average lifetime earnings of the decedent. In general, the more that the decedent has earned, the greater the benefit to the surviving spouse.