What Are Social Security Survivor Benefits for a Spouse?

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Social Security survivor benefits for a spouse who meets the eligibility requirements include a monthly benefit amount based on the earnings of the decedent and the spouse’s age and situation, reports the Social Security Administration. The surviving spouse may also receive a special lump-sum death payment.

If the deceased worker earned enough to receive maximum Social Security benefits, and the surviving spouse is at or over full retirement age, the spouse receives 100 percent of the decedent’s benefit amount, as of 2015, according to the SSA. A surviving spouse age 60 or over but not yet at full retirement age receives 71 1/2 percent to 99 percent of the benefit amount. A disabled surviving spouse between 50 and 59 years old receives 71 1/2 percent of the full benefit, and a surviving spouse of any age caring for a minor child receives 75 percent of a full benefit. Surviving spouses should notify the SSA as soon as possible when a person dies, and should apply for survivors benefits by phone or in person.

The surviving spouse receives a one-time lump-sum death payment if she was living with the decedent at the time of death, was already receiving benefits based on the decedent’s work record, or was due to begin receiving benefits upon the worker’s death, states the SSA. The surviving spouse must apply for the lump-sum payment by phone or in person at a Social Security office within two years of the worker’s death.