Social Security Survivor Benefits for a Spouse

Social Security survivor benefits enable widowed spouses to achieve financial freedom. On the passing of your spouse, you qualify for Social Security survivor benefits if you had been married for not less than 9 months. The first benefit is paid off as a lump sum of $255 while the rest is paid in monthly increments. The surviving spouse and dependents are eligible for survivor benefits if the deceased was fully insured.

Married Couple

If you are 60 years or older and had been married to the deceased worker for at least 10 years, and then divorced, you can still qualify for survivor benefits if you did not remarry before turning 60 years old.

How to Apply for Your Survivor's Benefits

Preparing to Report a Death

You should report the death of a spouse as soon as is possible. In most cases, the funeral home does this for you if you provide them with deceased's Social Security number. This helps the SSA stop any retirement benefits payments they had been paying. Should you report late, the SSA will require that the payments made after the death be returned.

Locating the Nearest SSA Office

While you can apply to claim the benefits when you're as young as 60 years, it would be ideal if you wait to get to the Full Retirement Age (FRA), as the benefits will have reached their maximum amount. At the onset of the application process, you need to contact the SSA by phone or visit a local Social Security office. It is impossible to report the death of a spouse or apply for the survivor’s benefits online.

Find a Social Security Office

Gather the Documents Required for Survivors Benefits

You are required to have the following documents:

  • Proof of your spouse's death
  • Proof of U.S. citizenship
  • Your birth certificate
  • Your Social Security number along with those of any dependent children
  • Your W-2 Form or your tax returns for those that are self-employed
  • Duly filled forms SSA-3368 and SSA-827 for the disabled
  • Your marriage certificate, and
  • A final divorce decree for persons filing for persons filing for benefits from a divorced spouse
  • Your bank's name and account details so that the benefits are channeled directly into your bank account.

The documents should be original, but if not, the copies should be certified as a true copy of the original by the issuing agency. Should you not have all the above documents, the SSA office can verify your information online through the Bureau of Vital Statistics without you incurring any costs.

Once the application is successful, the Social Security benefits will be deposited into your bank account.

Application for Social Security Survivors Benefits

What Else Qualifies you for Social Security Survivor Benefits?

Apart from the death of a spouse, you need to meet some qualifications. The surviving spouse receives full benefits if they have hit the full retirement age which, is 66 years for survivors born between 1945 and 1956, and 67 years for survivors born in 1962 or later. Reduced benefits (around 70%) are granted to the surviving spouse if they are 60 years old. If the surviving spouse is disabled, they could claim the benefits at 50 years. Caring for the deceased children who are either disabled or below 16 years qualifies you to receive survivor benefits at any age.

How Much Will I Get?

The SSA shows numerous formulas that you could use to estimate the amount of survivor benefits you could earn. In most cases, the more your spouse paid into Social Security, the more the survivor benefits will be.

Both of your social security statements will be required to estimate the amount of survivor benefits the widowed spouse is eligible for. The amount you receive on the survivor benefit depends on two factors:

  • Your age claim the benefit
  • The amount the deceased had claimed or would have received

Should your spouse die after having started to claim the Social Security benefits, you will be awarded the amount he or she had been receiving. The longer you take to start claiming, the larger your benefit which translates to a higher survivor benefit. If both of you had already started claiming, the higher benefit is automatically converted into the survivor benefit while the lower benefit amount is stopped.