What Are the Rules Around Social Security Death Benefits for Spouses?


Quick Answer

A widow or widower can receive Social Security death benefits as soon as age 60 of full retirement age and as soon as age 50 if the survivor is disabled, according to the Social Security Administration. If the surviving spouse is disabled, the disability must start before or within seven years of the spouse's death.

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Full Answer

Social Security has other rules surrounding the Social Security death benefit that pertain to a divorced spouse. When a person passes away and leaves a surviving divorced spouse, the surviving spouse could get the same benefits as the widow or widower if the marriage lasted 10 years or more, explains the Social Security Administration. Benefits paid to a surviving divorced spouse who meets the disability or age requirements as a widower or widow do not affect the benefit amounts other survivors may receive based on the deceased's earnings record. If a former spouse is caring for a child of the deceased who is under the age of 16 or disabled and receiving benefits on the deceased's record, the surviving divorced spouse does not have to meet the length-of-marriage rule.

Social Security has rules regarding surviving children receiving death benefits, notes the Social Security Administration. The deceased's child must be unmarried and 18 or younger, or up to age 19 if attending elementary or secondary school full-time. The child can receive benefits at any age if he was disabled before the age of 22 and remains disabled.

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