In general, yes.
If your spouse who has passed had paid into Social Security long enough, you may be eligible to collect his or her benefits. These are known as Survivors Benefits.
(Note that certain children and parents of the deceased may also be eligible, but today we’ll just look at spouses.)
Benefits you are entitle to
As a surviving spouse, you may begin to collect survivors benefits at the following ages:
– widow or widower aged 60 or older
– widow or widower aged 50 or older if disabled
– widow or widower of any age if caring for the deceased’s child who is under 16 or is disabled
As a surviving spouse, you may be eligible to receive 100% of your spouse’s benefits. However, the total amount and monthly amount depend on a number of things:
- The age at which you as surviving spouse begin to draw the benefits
- How much money you earn
- How much (if any) Social Security you receive from your own account
On this last point, it’s important to know that you cannot receive double benefits. The total benefit amount will equal the higher of the two.
For example, John draws $1,400 per month from Social Security and his wife Mary draws $800. If he dies, Mary will receive her $800 plus an additional $600 to equal the amount John was receiving of $1,400.
If, on the other hand, Mary draws $1,400 per month and John draws $800, upon his death Mary will continue to receive her own benefit of $1,400 only, since it was higher than John’s.
Social Security also makes a one-time, lump sum payment of $255 to most surviving spouses at the deceased’s passing. This “death benefit” is separate from, and in addition to, survivors benefits described above.
Ex-Spouses May Be Eligible, Too
Surviving divorced spouses may also be eligible for survivors benefits. If your former spouse dies, you may be able to collect if:
– you have not remarried before the age of 60 and
– the marriage lasted at least 10 years or
– you are caring for a child of the deceased who is under 16 or is disabled
The surviving ex-spouse may also be eligible to receive the same amount of benefits as the surviving spouse. In most cases, the ex-spouse’s benefits will have no effect on the amount available to surviving spouse and other family members.
Many people are surprised to hear they may be able to collect Social Security benefits from their deceased or former spouses. These benefits can be useful to factor in when you are planning your finances. And certainly helpful in planning your future.