What are widows or widowers benefits?


Quick Answer

Widows or widowers benefits, also known as survivors benefits, are Social Security benefits distributed to the surviving spouses of deceased workers eligible for benefits. Although survivors benefits can begin as early as age 60, beneficiaries receive larger monthly payments if they delay initiating them until full retirement age.

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What are widows or widowers benefits?
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Full Answer

Widows or widowers are eligible for survivors benefits if they were married to their working spouses for at least nine months before their death, and they remain eligible for benefits if they remarry after age 60. Generally, the total amount of survivors benefits remains the same whether beneficiaries initiate them early or late. Those who begin distributions at age 60 receive the lowest monthly payments, while those who wait until the maximum age of 70 receive the highest monthly payments. Survivors can begin benefits at age 50 if they are disabled and the disability occurred within seven years of their spouse's death.

To apply for survivors benefits, surviving spouses should phone a Social Security office for an appointment and appear in person. Although phoning ahead is not mandatory, it shortens waiting time at the office. Applicants should bring originals of required documents, such as proof of death of the worker eligible for benefits, a birth certificate, a marriage certificate and proof of U.S. citizenship or permanent residency. They also need photocopies of W-2 forms, self-employment tax forms and any needed medical documents.

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