You are here

Widow/Widower Benefits

Many people fear that when their spouse passes away, the Social Security benefits coming into the household for that spouse will be stopped. That is not necessarily the case. In many situations, the spouses of individuals who are receiving Social Security Disability and regular Social Security benefits can continue to receive their spouse’s benefits as long as certain conditions are met. These monthly benefits are known as widow or widower benefits, sometimes referred to as survivor benefits.

It is important to note that you will not qualify for widow or widower benefits during the month of your spouse's death. If you receive a payment from the Social Security Administration for your spouse during that month, it must be returned. At that time, the SSA will review whether or not you qualify for survivor benefits and whether or not you will continue to receive your spouse's payments from the Social Security Administration.

Those who qualify for widow or widower benefits as a disabled individual can receive benefits at a younger age. If you wish to qualify for benefits as a disabled widow or widower, you must have a medically proven long-term or permanent disability. The Social Security Administration considers any condition that is expected to last 12 months or longer to be a long-term disability. You must also prove that you are unable to work due to the disabling condition. If you can prove this, you can receive your spouse's Social Security Disability benefits at age 50 instead of age 60.

In addition to the continuing Social Security payments that you may be eligible for, you will also qualify for a one-time survivor’s benefit from the Social Security Administration. The amount of this payment will be $255 as long as you were living with your spouse when he or she died.

If you wish to continue receiving your spouse's monthly Social Security benefits, you must contact the Social Security Administration after your spouse's death to apply. You can go into your local Social Security office with your spouse's death certificate or funeral home notice, your Social Security number, your spouse's Social Security number, your spouse's birth certificate, your marriage certificate and your most recent tax returns to do this.

Once you have applied for widow or widowers benefits, the Social Security Administration will notify you regarding whether or not you have been approved and if you will be able to continue receiving your spouse's Social Security payments in the future.