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Can I Collect My Deceased Husband’s Social Security

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Can I Collect My Ex-spouse’s or Deceased Spouse’s Social Security?

Welcome to our Social Security Q& A series. You ask a question about Social Security, and a guest expert answers it.

You can learn how to ask a question of your own below. And if you would like a personalized report detailing your optimal Social Security claiming strategy, . Check it out: It could result in receiving thousands of dollars more in benefits over your lifetime!

Todays question comes from Scarlett:

I am drawing a small amount of Social Security on my ex-husband. He is remarried. When he passes away, will I get his full Social Security?

If You Are The Survivor

Just as you plan for your family’s protection if you die, you should consider the Social Security benefits that may be available if you are the survivor that is, the spouse, child, or parent of a worker who dies. That person must have worked long enough under Social Security to qualify for benefits.

How Your Spouse Earns Social Security Survivors Benefits

A worker can earn up to four credits each year. In 2021, for example, your spouse can earn one credit for each $1,470 of wages or self-employment income. When your spouse has earned $5,880, they have earned their four credits for the year.

The number of credits needed to provide benefits for survivors depends on the worker’s age when they die. No one needs more than 40 credits to be eligible for any Social Security benefit. But, the younger a person is, the fewer credits they must have for family members to receive survivors benefits.

Benefits can be paid to the worker’s children and the surviving spouse who is caring for the children even if the worker doesn’t have the required number of credits. They can get benefits if the worker has credit for one and one-half years of work in the three years just before their death. Each persons situation is different and you need to talk to a Social Security claims representative about your choices.

Does Social Security Pay Survivor Benefits For Suicides

The Social Security Administration offers survivors benefits to the widow or children of the deceased. The widow and children must meet SSA guidelines to receive the benefits, not the deceased. If you’re the survivor of someone who committed suicide, you may wonder if you can collect on Social Security benefits. Spouses and children of individuals are eligible for benefits, but they may be denied if the death was found to be intentional.


  • Although in most cases Social Security does not pay survivor benefits when the deceased intentionally commits suicide, there are a few exceptions to the rule.

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What Do You Need To Apply For Survivors Benefits

If you were already receiving spousal benefits before the death, you will not need to submit an application. Instead, the SSA will automatically convert your package to your spouses. If thats not the case, complete this form, and gather these documents:

  • Proof of the death
  • Birth certificate or other proof of birth
  • Proof of U.S. citizenship or lawful alien status if you were not born in the United States
  • U.S. military discharge papers if you had military service before 1968
  • For disability benefits, the two forms that describe your medical condition and authorize disclosure of information to the SSA
  • W-2 forms and/or self-employment tax returns for the preceding year
  • Final divorce decree, if applying as a surviving divorced spouse
  • Your checkbook to arrange direct deposit

Chapter : How To Apply For Survivor Benefits

Can I Collect My Ex

A widow, widower, or surviving divorced spouse cannot apply online for survivors benefits. You must call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 Alternatively, you can go in person to your local Social Security field office.

To apply for Social Security survivor benefits, you must have the following documents:

  • Proof of death
  • Both your own Social Security number and that of the deceased worker
  • Your birth certificate
  • Your marriage certificate
  • Your divorce certificate
  • Dependent childrens Social Security numbers, if available, and birth certificates

Did you Know?

Unlike other Social Security benefits, you cannot apply for survivors benefits online. You must call the SSA or go in person to your local Social Security field office.

Applying and ensuring you claim the right benefit at the right time for your personal finances can be confusing. When youre ready to apply, we recommend using a checklist to ensure you take the right steps and have the right documentation.

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The Social Security Administrations Rules On Common

The Social Security Administration is not known for their simple, plain language in most cases. So you might be surprised to learn that when it comes to common-law marriages and Social Security benefits

The rules are actually quite straightforward! According to the SSA, a common-law marriage is a valid marriage. And as such, a common-law couple will be able to claim the same benefits as a couple who followed the traditional marriage route.

How To Qualify For Survivor Benefits


Spousal benefits and survivor benefits are calculated differently. If your spouse died, you could qualify for survivor benefits if:

  • You were married to the deceased person for at least nine months.
  • You are at least 60 years old, unless you are disabled or caring for the deceased persons child, who is under age 16 or disabled.


If your ex-spouse died, you could qualify for survivor benefits as well, if:

  • You had been married for 10 years or more before divorcing.
  • You are at least 60 years old, or age 50 if youre totally disabled or are caring for a child from the previous marriage who is under age 16 or disabled.

Note: Unlike with spousal benefits, remarriage will not affect your eligibility for survivor benefits, as long as you remarried at age 60 or later, or age 50 if youre totally disabled.

Also Check: How Early Can You Take Social Security

Can I Collect My Social Security And My Deceased Husbands

If My Spouse Dies, Can I Collect Their Social Security Benefits? A surviving spouse can collect 100 percent of the late spouses benefit if the survivor has reached full retirement age, but the amount will be lower if the deceased spouse claimed benefits before he or she reached full retirement age.

How Much Can You Earn And Still Collect Survivor Benefits

Social Security & Divorce: Can I claim Social Security based on an ex-spouse?

While it can seem unfair to not be able to fully claim both your own and your survivor benefits, there are claiming strategies to maximize what you receive. This includes switching from one benefit to the other. See an example from one of our users directly below.

Making the right decision on how to maximize your own benefits depends on how much your own retirement benefit vs. survivor benefit would be, and how long you think you will be living and needing the money. It also depends on whether youre working.

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Also Check: How Can I Determine My Social Security Benefits

A Guide For Spouses Ex

If you never paid into Social Security or didnt work long enough to qualify, you may need to rely on Social Security spousal benefits for your retirement. That also may be true for those who stopped working in order to care for their children and/or elderly relatives.

Even if youve paid into the system and qualify for Social Security based on your own work record, you might qualify for a higher benefit through your spouse, or even an ex-spouse.

Depending on your situation, there are some requirements you must meet in order to qualify for spousal or survivor benefits.

Effect Of Remarriage On Divorced Spouse Benefits

With regard to divorced spouse benefits, such benefits will end if you marry someone else . There is one exception, however: If your new spouse is currently receiving Social Security benefits as a wife, husband, widow, widower, father, mother, parent, or disabled child , you can continue receiving divorced spouse benefits based on your ex-spouses work record.

That may sound confusing, so lets run through an example.

Allan and Anna are married. Because Anna has devoted her life to raising their children and volunteering for assorted organizations, she doesnt have enough work credits to qualify for her own retirement benefit.

Burt and Beth are married. Similar to Anna, Burt has been a full-time parent/volunteer, and he doesnt have enough work credits to qualify for a retirement benefit.

Both couples get divorced, and Anna and Burt eventually qualify for benefits based on their ex-spouses work records.

Anna and Burt meet and fall in love. If it were not for the exception described above, if they were to get married, neither one would qualify for any Social Security benefits. That is, neither one has a retirement benefit, and therefore neither one can receive any spousal benefits on the other ones work record.

Because of the exception described above, however, both Anna and Burt can continue receiving spousal benefits on their ex-spouses work records.

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A Few Other Situations:

  • If you already receive benefits as a spouse, your benefit will automatically convert to survivors benefits after we receive the report of death.
  • If you are also eligible for retirement benefits , you have an additional option. You can apply for retirement or survivors benefits now and switch to the other benefit later.
  • For those already receiving retirement benefits, you can only apply for benefits as a widow or widower if the retirement benefit you receive is less than the benefits you would receive as a survivor.
  • If you became entitled to retirement benefits less than 12 months ago, you may be able towithdraw your retirement application and apply for survivors benefits only. If you do that, you can reapply for the retirement benefits later when they will be higher.

Can I Collect My Deceased Husband’s Benefits At Age 60

Can I Collect My Ex

Hi Larry, I’ve tried to navigate Social Security’s website and I’ve read your very good responses to questions but have not found a situation similar to mine. I am currently working full time and will be 60 in a couple of months. I plan to work until I’m 65 or retire sooner if possible and wait until I’m 67 to collect my social security benefits. In my first marriage, I was a stay at home mom in a 20-year marriage that ended in divorce. I remarried 10 years later and my 2nd husband passed away 2 years ago at age 63. We were married 5 years. He was on disability the last year and a half of our marriage, getting $1800 a month. My first husband has made about a 6 figure income annually the last 15 years. I have not remarried and have no plans to. I wasn’t sure if I could collect my deceased husband’s social security when I turn 60, or when I’m 62 collect part of my ex-husband’s who is still living. Or if by collecting one that would negate ever being able to collect the other. Any guidance you provide would be appreciated. Thank you.

I’m sorry for your loss.

You could potentially file for widow’s benefits on your deceased husband’s record as early as age 60, but if you continue working and you earn too much then your benefits may need to be fully or partially withheld due to Social Security’s earnings test .

Best, Jerry

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If You Haven’t Applied For Retirement Benefits Yet

Spouses who are eligible for both the survivor benefit and the retirement benefit based on their own work record can maximize their total benefits by taking them in the most advantageous order. The Social Security Administration explains how this works:

If you are also eligible for retirement benefits , you have an additional option. You can apply for retirement or survivors benefits now and switch to the other benefit at a later date.

The right order for you will depend on the size of each benefit. If both payouts currently are about the same, it may be best to take the survivor benefit at age 60. It’s going to be reduced because you’re taking it early, but you can collect that benefit from age 60 to age 70 while your own retirement benefit continues to grow. Then you can collect your own benefit starting at age 70 when it maxes out.

Conversely, if your own benefit is small compared to the survivor benefit , you could take your own benefit at age 62, which is the earliest age at which you’re eligible. Then, at age 66, you could switch over to the survivor benefit. However, the survivor benefit would be reduced since it was taken early or before full retirement age.

How Does Social Security Work When An Ex

    Dear Savvy Senior: Who qualifies for Social Security survivor benefits? My ex-husband died last year, so I would like to find out whether my 17-year-old daughter or I are eligible for anything. Divorced Survivor

    Dear Divorced: If your ex-husband worked and paid Social Security taxes and you and/or your daughter meet the eligibility requirements, you may very well be eligible for survivor benefits, but you should act quickly because benefits are generally retroactive only up to six months. Heres what you should know.

    Under Social Security law, when a person who has worked and paid Social Security taxes dies, certain members of that persons family may be eligible for survivor benefits, including spouses, former spouses and dependents. Heres a breakdown of who qualifies.

    > > Widow and divorced widow: A surviving spouse who was married at least nine months is eligible to collect a monthly survivor benefit as early as age 60 . A divorced surviving spouse is also eligible at this same age, if he or she was married at least 10 years and did not remarry before age 60 , unless the marriage ends.

    How much youll receive will depend on how much money your spouse or ex-spouse made over his lifetime, and the age at which you apply for survivor benefits.

    There is, however, one exception: When a surviving spouse or ex-spouse is caring for a child , under age 16 or disabled, of the deceased worker, he or she is eligible to receive 75% of the workers benefit amount at any age.

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    Planning For Your Survivors

    Social Security widow(er) benefits

    As you plan for the future, you’ll want to think about what your family would need if you should die now. Social Security can help your family if you have earned enough Social Security credits through your work.

    You can earn up to four credits each year. In 2021, for example, you earn one credit for each $1,470 of wages or self-employment income. When you have earned $5,880, you have earned your four credits for the year.

    The number of credits needed to provide benefits for your survivors depends on your age when you die. No one needs more than 40 credits to be eligible for any Social Security benefit. But, the younger a person is, the fewer credits they must have for family members to receive survivors benefits.

    Benefits can be paid to your children and your spouse who is caring for the children even if you don’t have the required number of credits. They can get benefits if you have credit for one and one-half years of work in the three years just before your death.

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    Benefits Available To Children & Parents

    Eligible spouses arent the only ones that can receive Social Security survivor benefits. Dependent children and parents may also be entitled.

    If you want to learn more, here are the best resources on the topic:

    Childrens Benefits:

    Social Security Benefits for Dependent Parents -Article by Mike Piper, the author of Social Security Made Simple.

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