What If My Spouse Is Deceased? What happens to The social security benefits?
If you are NOT caring for an eligible child, you may receive what are called “survivor benefits” (also known as “widow’s or widower’s” benefit) as soon as you reach age 60. In order for you to qualify for survivor benefits, however, the worker (your deceased spouse) must have accrued at least forty (40) of those “credits” at the time of his or her death if he or she was 62 or older. Interestingly, the Social Security Administration reduces the accrued credits requirement “one by one” each year to a minimum of six (6) credits required if the deceased spouse was 28 years old or younger when he or she died.
It gets a little more confusing as we dig deeper into the rules!
The surviving spouse may receive Social Security benefits as early as age 60 with a reduction for benefits he or she received BEFORE he or she reaches FRA. Also, a surviving spouse will NOT receive survivor benefits if he or she remarries BEFORE age 60. However, if you remarry at age 60 or later, you will not be disqualified from your survivor benefits. Furthermore, a divorced spouse who was married for at least 10 years must follow the same rules. But keep in mind that the benefits a divorced spouse receives do NOT impact the benefits the surviving spouse receives.
Next, let’s take a look at what is probably the most confusing part of these “survivor” rules. If a deceased worker dies on or before his or her FRA and the surviving spouse is at least at his or her FRA, the surviving spouse will still receive one hundred percent (100%) of his or her deceased spouse’s FRA benefit. However, if the deceased spouse earned “delayed retirement credits,” his or her surviving spouse’s benefit will be based on the HIGHER amount. Therefore, at age 60, for example, the minimum benefit would be seventy-one point five percent (71.5%) of the FRA benefit.
Lastly, in this category of rules, a worker does not have to be receiving his or her Social Security benefits in order for his or her survivors to be eligible to receive those benefits.