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How Can I Qualify For Survivors Benefits?

During the time of death, it can be hard to deal with certain situations, but being comfortable and knowing your benefits is essential to your future. Social Security widow benefits can be complicated. The amount of benefits you can receive is based on multiple factors, such as, the widows age, deceased spouse’s age, and if the deceased spouse had benefits of their own. There are ways were you can maximize the amount you can receive, but you must first know the rules to this process. Because these are such difficult times, widows and widowers tend to make decisions fast because they feel pressured, leaving them with a minimum amount and not optimizing their full benefits.

Who Is Eligible?

If you were married for at least nine months before your spouse passed away and they also have worked long enough that Social Security would grant your deceased spouse with retirement, and then you are eligible to receive widow/widower benefits. You are only able to start receiving these benefits if you are at least 60 years old.


Generally, a widow/widower can receive 100 percent of the benefits once they have reached the full retirement age.

  • You can start receiving benefits as early as 60 — 50 if you are disabled — but the benefits will be reduced until you reach full retirement age.
  • When receiving benefits before retirement age, you can get anywhere from 71 to 99 percent of the benefits.
  • If the survivor is caring for a disabled child under the age of 16, they can get 75 percent of the benefits.

Children who are unmarried

  • Children who are under the age of 18 can receive benefits as well. The exception to receiving benefits over the age of 18 is if they are still attending high school, but must be a full time student. The child will get 75 percent of the benefit.
  • There are certain circumstances that stepchildren, adopted children, or even grandchildren can get benefits. If the child is disabled before the age of 22 and are still disabled, they can get the benefits at any age.

Dependent parents

  • Dependent parents, who are at least 62, can receive benefits. A dependent parent qualifies if they have provided half of the parent’s finances and bills.

Divorced spouses

  • If your spouse dies and you are divorces, you are able to receive benefits if the marriage lasted at least 10 years and you are at least 60. Be sure to research the rules on this matter because it can vary depending on your situation and if you are remarried.

How Much Can You Receive?

The amount you can get as a survivor from Social Security depends on a few things:

  • The primary insurance amount of the deceased spouse. This is the amount they would receive when they reach the full retirement age.
  •  If the deceased spouse already started collecting Social Security benefits
  • If the deceased spouse was at the full retirement age before passing away
  • The age of the surviving spouse

Applying for Widow/Widower Benefits

Though it would be easier, because there are numerous cases and ways for survivor benefits, you cannot apply online. Applications can be filed over the phone or you can set up an appointment at your local Social Security office. You can find the list of requirements and what information you need to provide to apply for these benefits online. You can also reach out to someone at the office or speak with a representative if you feel more comfortable having someone legally there for you during this process. You will have to submit a death certificate of your spouse as well as a marriage certificate. There are other important documents that you need to provide, but they will inform you once you reach out to begin this process.

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