Can my family get benefits if my spouse dies?

When your spouse dies, if he or she has worked enough, his or her dependent children, sometimes including disabled adult children, may be eligible for monthly survivor’s benefits from Social Security.

You might also be able to get benefits off of your spouse’s record if: a) You are over 60; b) You are over 50 and become disabled within 7 years of your spouse’s death; or c) if you have a low income and have children under 16 in your care.

The earlier you take benefits, the lower the amount you will receive. Survivor’s payments run from about 71 percent of the deceased spouse’s benefit, if taken at age 60, up to 100 percent, if not drawn till you are 65. For a disabled widow or widower between 50 and 59, your check would be 71 percent of the deceased partner’s benefit amount.

If you are eligible for retirement benefits on your own work record, and that of your deceased spouse, you should consider carefully which record to draw on, and when. You may choose to draw reduced survivor’s benefits, then get full retirement at 65. Or, you could take early retirement, then file for full survivor’s benefits at age 65. A Social Security representative can help you decide which option would be best for you; call their office at 1-800-772-1213.

Remarriage can affect your eligibility for spouse’s benefits in complex ways. If you are thinking of getting remarried and are concerned about this, you should be very cautious, and perhaps sit down and talk to an attorney before risking permanent loss of these benefits, which can happen in some, but not all, circumstances. Sometimes waiting a few months can preserve benefits. Do not trust the Administration’s answers on this question.