When your spouse dies do you get their Social Security benefits? (2024)

After losing a spouse, getting your financial affairs in order crowds against many other new priorities—honoring their memory, finding support systems and focusing on your own healing.

Figuring out benefits such as Social Security can feel overwhelming. When your spouse dies, do you get their Social Security? Depending on your situation, survivor benefits can play a vital role in your long-term financial plan. Here's what to know about what benefits you may be entitled to and how to apply.

Who qualifies for Social Security survivor benefits?

Survivor benefits offer financial support for surviving spouses and dependents after the worker passes away. You may be entitled to survivor benefits if you meet either of the below criteria:

  • You are a surviving spouse age 60 or older (or age 50 or older with a disability that occurred within seven years of your spouse's death).
  • You are the surviving spouse of any age who is caring for the deceased worker's child. The child must be under age 16 or have a disability.

In most cases, if you were married to the deceased for at least nine months, you can qualify for survivor benefits. There is no length of marriage requirement if the death was accidental or occurred during US military duty. Remarrying after age 60 will not impact survivor benefits. However, if you remarry before age 60, you cannot receive survivor benefits; if that marriage ends, you can reinstate your survivor benefits.

In addition to spouses, other family members may qualify for survivor benefits, including children, grandchildren, parents and even divorced spouses. The Social Security Administration (SSA) provides a more complete list of who qualifies.

How much Social Security does the surviving spouse receive?

The benefit a surviving spouse receives depends on two factors: the age of the deceased and the age of the survivor.

How a deceased spouse's age affects the Social Security retirement benefit

When a spouse passes, the SSA pays an eligible surviving spouse a percentage of the deceased's retirement benefits, depending on the deceased's age:

  • If the deceased did not reach full retirement age, the surviving spouse can receive 100% of the retirement benefit.
  • If the deceased reached retirement age, the surviving spouse can receive whatever the deceased was entitled to in the month of their death.
  • Similarly, if the deceased already received monthly payments, the surviving spouse is entitled to what they received in the month of their death.

How a surviving spouse's age affects Social Security retirement benefits

  • As a surviving spouse, you're entitled to 100% of the deceased's benefits once you reach full retirement age. The full retirement age can differ based on the type of benefit. See this chart for the survivor's full retirement age.
  • If you're younger than full retirement age but at least age 60 (or age 50 with a disability), you are entitled to a reduced benefit (71½% to 99%, depending on your age).

This can be a complicated time for you as well as your spouse's other loved ones, and you may find yourself caring for others while you are still grieving. Regardless of your age, caring for the deceased's child (under age 16 or disabled) may entitle you to 75% of the deceased's benefits.

If several family members are eligible for benefits, you may come close to the family maximum benefit. Exceeding the family maximum will reduce benefit payments. Your benefit also may be reduced even further if you haven't reached retirement age and you're still working. The Social Security earnings limit for 2023 is $21,240.

What is the Social Security lump sum death benefit?

In addition to a monthly payment, most surviving spouses are entitled to a death benefit. The death benefit is a lump sum payment of $255. To qualify, you must have lived with the deceased when they died. However, even if you lived apart when your spouse died, you might still be eligible for the death benefit if you already receive spousal benefits.

Survivor benefits are usually paid for life, so it's worth taking the time to estimate your monthly amount. Consider using a benefits calculator to get an initial estimate of your benefit amount.

If your spouse dies, do you get both Social Security benefits?

You cannot claim your deceased spouse's benefits in addition to your own retirement benefits. Social Security only will pay one—survivor or retirement. If you qualify for both survivor and retirement benefits, you will receive whichever amount is higher. This means that if you already receive retirement benefits, you can't apply for survivor benefits if they're less than your retirement benefits.

Depending on your situation, it may work in your favor to postpone applying for retirement, giving those benefits the potential for growth while you receive survivor benefits. Ultimately, every case is different. Your local Thrivent financial advisor can provide guidance on which benefit to apply for and when.

How do you apply for survivor benefits?

If you already receive spousal benefits, the SSA will automatically switch you to survivor benefits upon receiving proof of death. Otherwise, you'll have to apply to begin receiving survivor benefits.

Because of the complexity of determining eligibility and the benefit amount, the SSA does not allow online applications. You can call to apply over the phone or schedule an in-person appointment at your local SSA office.

The SSA may request several documents when you apply. A few examples include:

  • Proof of death; either from the funeral home or a death certificate
  • Your and your deceased spouse's Social Security numbers
  • Marriage certificate
  • Your late spouse's most recent W2 forms or federal tax return
  • Bank information if setting up direct deposit

See what survivor benefits you're entitled to

After losing a spouse, prioritize finding support for yourself first. There may be certain financial questions that you don't yet have the mental and emotional space to work through, so consider talking to your local Social Security representative about the benefits you're entitled to. Depending on your situation, survivor benefits can play a significant supporting role in your financial journey.

Connect with your Thrivent financial advisor to discuss your benefits and how they fit into your broader financial strategy.

When your spouse dies do you get their Social Security benefits? (2024)


When your spouse dies do you get their Social Security benefits? ›

Surviving spouse, at full retirement age or older, generally gets 100% of the worker's basic benefit amount. Surviving spouse, age 60 or older, but under full retirement age, gets between 71% and 99% of the worker's basic benefit amount.

When my husband dies, do I get his Social Security and my Social Security? ›

If your spouse dies, do you get both Social Security benefits? You cannot claim your deceased spouse's benefits in addition to your own retirement benefits. Social Security only will pay one—survivor or retirement. If you qualify for both survivor and retirement benefits, you will receive whichever amount is higher.

What percentage of Social Security benefits does a widow receive? ›

The widow(er)'s insurance benefit rate equals 100 percent of the deceased worker's primary insurance amount plus any additional amount the deceased worker was entitled to because of delayed retirement credits. (See §720.)

Do you get money when your husband dies? ›

Survivor benefits provide monthly payments to eligible family members of people who worked and paid Social Security taxes before they died.

What happens to wife when husband dies? ›

A wife certainly can receive everything when a husband dies. A classic example is where the husband dies without a trust or last will and has no other surviving next of kin. Also, a husband can choose to ensure his wife receives his entire estate when he passes through proper estate planning.

What percentage of a husband's Social Security does a wife get? ›

For a spouse who is not entitled to benefits on his or her own earnings record, this reduction factor is applied to the base spousal benefit, which is 50 percent of the worker's primary insurance amount.

What not to do when a spouse dies? ›

Top 10 Things Not to Do When Someone Dies
  1. 1 – DO NOT tell their bank. ...
  2. 2 – DO NOT wait to call Social Security. ...
  3. 3 – DO NOT wait to call their Pension. ...
  4. 4 – DO NOT tell the utility companies. ...
  5. 5 – DO NOT give away or promise any items to loved ones. ...
  6. 6 – DO NOT sell any of their personal assets. ...
  7. 7 – DO NOT drive their vehicles.
Apr 13, 2019

Do widows lose their husband's Social Security? ›

These are examples of the benefits that survivors may receive: Surviving spouse, full retirement age or older — 100% of the deceased worker's benefit amount. Surviving spouse, age 60 — through full retirement age — 71½ to 99% of the deceased worker's basic amount.

What is the difference between survivor benefits and widow benefits? ›

The short version: Spousal benefits are available to retired workers' spouses or ex-spouses. They pay up to 50% of a worker's monthly retirement or disability benefit. Survivor benefits are paid to a surviving spouse or surviving ex-spouse when a Social Security beneficiary dies.

What are widows entitled to? ›

The widow's pension is:

1/3 x deceased's pension.

What am I entitled to if my spouse dies? ›

Enforcing the Community Property Rights of Surviving Spouses

If the decedent died without a will, the spouse may be entitled to all of the decedent's community property and some or all of the decedent's separate property.

What is the first thing you should do when your husband dies? ›

This checklist can help, too.
  • Call your attorney. ...
  • Locate your spouse or partner's will. ...
  • Contact your spouse's former employers. ...
  • Notify all insurance companies, including life and health. ...
  • Change titles on all joint bank, investment, and credit accounts. ...
  • Meet with your accountant/tax preparer.
Dec 19, 2023

How long does a widow receive survivor benefits? ›

How Long Do You Receive Social Security Survivor Benefits? Social Security survivor benefits are payable to the surviving spouse for the remainder of their life. Restrictions apply for divorced spouses eligible to receive benefits.

When my husband dies, do I get his social security and mine? ›

He or she can still collect benefits on the deceased spouse's work record. However, if you are eligible for your own retirement benefit, you won't get both payments; Social Security will pay the higher of the two benefit amounts.

Does the first wife get everything when her husband dies? ›

If your spouse left a will, then, for the most part, their assets will be distributed according to the terms of that will. However, because California is a community property state, all assets acquired during the marriage are presumed to be owned equally by both spouses.

What is the hardest family member to lose? ›

The death of a husband or wife is well recognized as an emotionally devastating event, being ranked on life event scales as the most stressful of all possible losses.

Can I get both my Social Security and survivor benefits? ›

Yes. If you qualify for your own retirement and spouse's benefits, we will always pay your own benefits first. If your benefit amount as a spouse is higher than your own retirement benefit, you will get a combination of the two benefits that equals the higher amount.

How much does a widow get of her husband's state pension? ›

Additional state pension that you inherit from your late husband; you inherit at least 50% of his additional state pension, and a higher percentage if he was born before 6th October 1945; see here.

When can a wife draw off her husband's Social Security? ›

If you are receiving retirement or disability benefits, your spouse may be eligible for spouse benefits if they are: At least age 62. Any age and caring for a child who is under age 16 or who has a disability that began before age 22.

Can you collect Social Security from two husbands? ›

Can I claim benefits on either one's record? Yes, you can. Notify the Social Security Administration that you were married more than once and may qualify for benefits on more than one spouse's earnings record. They will be able to tell you which record provides the higher payment and set your benefit accordingly.

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