At what age can you get Social Security from a dead spouse?


Q. Can a spouse receive a spouse’s benefits after he dies suddenly? Or does she have to qualify for benefits at the age of 62?
— Single again

A. As you know, when a Social Security beneficiary dies, his or her surviving spouse is eligible for survivor benefits.

The question is, when?

The all-encompassing answer is that it depends.

A surviving spouse can collect 100 percent of the late spouse’s benefit if the survivor has reached full retirement age, although the amount will be lower if the deceased spouse claimed benefits early, said Michael Green, a certified financial planner with Wechter Feldman Wealth Management in Parsippany.

He said in most cases, a widow or widower qualifies for survivor benefits if he or she is at least 60 years old and had been married to the deceased for at least nine months at the time of death.

But there are a few exceptions to those requirements:

If the late beneficiary’s death was accidental or occurred in the line of U.S. military duty, there’s no length-of-marriage requirement, Green said.

Also, you can apply for survivor benefits as early as age 50 if you are disabled and the disability occurred within seven years of your spouse’s death.

You can apply at any age if you are caring for children from the marriage who are under 16.

“If you are the divorced former spouse of the deceased, you might qualify for survivor benefits on his or her work record if the marriage lasted at least 10 years,” Green said. “Whether you have remarried can also affect eligibility.”

If the remarriage took place before you turned 60, or 50 if you are disabled, you cannot draw survivor benefits. You regain eligibility if that marriage ends, he said, but there is no effect on eligibility for survivor benefits if you remarry at or past 60, or 50 if disabled.

Green said the survivor benefit is generally calculated on the benefit your late spouse was receiving from Social Security at the time of death, or was entitled to receive, based on age and earnings history, if he or she had not yet claimed benefits.

The actual amount of your payment will differ according to your age and family circumstance: These are examples of the benefits that survivors may receive:

· Widow or widower, full retirement age or older = 100 percent of the deceased worker’s benefit amount;
· Widow or widower, age 60 to full retirement age = 71.5 to 99 percent;
· Disabled widow or widower aged 50 through 59 = 71.5 percent;
· Widow or widower, any age, caring for a child under age 16 = 75 percent;
· A child under age 18 (19 if still in elementary or secondary school) or disabled = 75 percent;
· Dependent parent(s) of the deceased worker, age 62 or older:
o One surviving parent — 82.5 percent.

o Two surviving parents — 75 percent to each parent.

You will not receive a survivor benefit in addition to your own retirement benefit, Green said. Instead, Social Security will pay the higher of the two amounts.

“It does not matter whether a surviving spouse worked long enough to qualify for benefits on their own—he or she can still collect benefits on the deceased spouse’s work record,” he said. “Survivors may also receive a special lump-sum death payment of $255 if they meet certain requirements.”

Contact your local Social Security office for specifics on your situation.

Email your questions to .

This story was originally published Oct. 3, 2019. presents certain general financial planning principles and advice, but should never be viewed as a substitute for obtaining advice from a personal professional advisor who understands your unique individual circumstances.