When Can A Widow Collect Her Husband’s Social Security?

Published on: December 28, 2023

For many, there is no greater pain than the pain that comes with losing someone you love – especially someone to whom you were very close. Losing a spouse can be particularly painful, and after years of a life spent together, it can be hard to imagine how you will begin to go on alone. It can be incredibly difficult, in the midst of grief, to picture yourself moving forward with day-to-day life.

During this very difficult time, financial support can be essential. Social Security benefits are one type of financial support that can significantly reduce stress and provide financial stability as you move forward toward the future.

Often, we are asked if widows and widowers can collect their spouse’s Social Security benefits after they pass away. The good news is that this is possible in many situations. As with so many legal matters, the answer will depend on the situation. Let’s take a closer look together.

What is Social Security Disability Insurance?

Social Security Disability Insurance (or SSDI, for short) is a disability benefit paid to individuals with a qualifying medical condition that has rendered them disabled and unable to work for at least one calendar year or more. To qualify for benefits, those individuals must also be "insured," which means that they worked a qualifying job for a sufficient length of time and paid a portion of their salary to the Social Security Administration.

When an individual receiving SSDI benefits passes away, those benefits may be able to be assigned to their dependents, including a spouse, children, or others, depending upon the particular circumstances. These benefits are typically known as “survivor’s benefits”.

How Much Will You Receive?

The Social Security Administration will initially pay a lump sum one-time $225 benefit to a spouse following a beneficiary’s death, in addition to whatever percentage of survivor’s benefits the living spouse will ultimately receive. Often, surviving spouses want to know how the survivor’s benefits are calculated – which is completely understandable.

Usually, the survivor benefits paid to a spouse are based on the earnings of the person who passed away. As a general rule, the more the deceased spouse paid into the Social Security system, the higher the benefit amount. Typically, the payment is made each month. Generally, payments are determined as follows:

  • If the surviving spouse cares for a child under the age of 16, the surviving spouse may be eligible for 75% of the deceased spouse’s benefits.
  • If the surviving spouse is at least 50 years old and also disabled with a disability that began before the other spouse died, they may receive 71.5% of the deceased spouse’s SSDI benefit.
  • If the surviving spouse is at least 60 years old but has not yet reached full retirement age, that spouse may receive anywhere from 71.5 to 99% of the deceased spouse’s SSDI benefit.
  • If the surviving spouse is full retirement age or older, they may receive 100% of the deceased spouse’s SSDI benefit.

While these guidelines are helpful in determining how much you might receive, it's also essential to remember that your unique circumstances may affect the amount you are eligible to receive. Some additional factors that may affect eligibility include how long you were married to your spouse, whether or not you remarry, whether you are earning other income and other circumstances. As with any legal matter, it will be essential to consult with an attorney who knows and understands the law to better understand your particular situation and the benefits for which you may qualify.

What Steps Should You Take Next?

Immediately after a spouse passes away, it can be overwhelming in so many ways – having an added list of tasks to do can only add to that stress. Fortunately, when it comes to Social Security benefits, in most cases, the funeral home will report the spouse's death to the Social Security Administration. If, for any reason, you do not believe this was done, you can call the Social Security Administration at (800)772-1213 or visit their website at www.ssa.gov. Typically, representatives are available Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Disability Experts – Here For You

At Disability Experts, we understand how essential Social Security benefits can be for those who have lost their spouses. We also know how overwhelming it can be to wonder how you'll begin to pursue those benefits and what steps you should take first. That's why we're here to help. We understand every aspect of Social Security law and are ready to put our knowledge and experience to work for you. There’s no day like today to take the first steps toward pursuing the benefits you need and deserve. If you’re ready to get started, give us a call. We look forward to speaking with you soon.



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