Social Security Spousal and Survivor Benefits

Spousal benefits may be available to those who are currently married or who were married but are now divorced. This benefit is equal to one-half the worker’s primary insurance amount but may be reduced if filing prior to full retirement age (there are no delayed retirement credits for filing after this age). If a spouse has a benefit based on their own work history, they will receive either the greater of their own benefit or one-half the other worker’s benefit (as a spousal benefit). Divorced spouses must have been married for at least 10 years.

How Survivor Benefits Work

Upon the death of either spouse, spousal benefits will be increased to the deceased spouse’s full retirement benefit (if it is greater than the surviving spouse’s benefit based on his or her own work history). Benefits are also available for surviving spouses and dependent children. Social Security disability benefits may be available for disabled workers who satisfy the SSA criteria.

Surviving spouses of fully insured workers and those who have been married for at least nine months are eligible for a surviving spouse benefit. The benefit amount will be up to 100% of the deceased worker’s benefit. Surviving spouses can begin receiving a benefit by age 60, but if they do the benefit will be reduced to 71.5% of the amount that would have been received at the full retirement age.

Survivors who are caring for the decedent’s child may receive a benefit of 75% of the deceased worker’s benefit regardless of the filing age. If the surviving spouse remarries after they reach age 60, both spouse and child can continue to receive the spousal benefits. Getting married at any age younger than 60 will terminate the surviving spousal benefit. Social Security will pay a $255 lump sum death benefit. Learn more about survivor benefits.

Can Divorced Spouses Receive Benefits?

Divorced spouses who were married to the worker for 10 years or more are entitled to a spousal benefit the same as any current spouse. A divorced spouse receiving a benefit has no impact either on the worker’s or current spouse’s benefit. Spousal benefits are only available for spouses of workers who are fully insured. To be fully insured, a worker would have paid into the system and earned 40 quarters/credits.

Learn more about Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The Social Security Administration also offers users the ability to open an account that will provide the user’s personal eligibility and earnings.

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