Applying for a deceased spouse's Social Security benefits, also known as survivor's benefits, can be done either over the phone or at a local Social Security office. In order to apply, it is necessary to provide a number of different documents and answer a series of questions to verify eligibility.
Some of the required documents include proof of citizenship, birth certificate, marriage certificate, tax forms and the spouse's death certificate. Original copies are required of most of the forms, with the exception of tax forms and certain medical documents.
Widows and widowers are eligible to begin receiving their spouses' benefits at full retirement age. However, they can also start receiving reduced benefits from the age of 60. In addition, if a person is disabled and her disability occurred before or within seven years of her spouse's death, she is able to start receiving survivor's benefits as early as 50 years old.
Divorced couples are also eligible to receive survivor's benefits from their former spouses as long as they do not remarry before the age of 60. These benefits follow the same rules as for those still married. However, if the divorced widow is still taking care of her former spouse's children, she is eligible to begin receiving survivor's benefits at any age. The same is true for a widower.