elderly widow looking off in distance

What Happens to My Spouse’s Social Security After They Die?

  • By Franklin Drazen
  • |
  • Posted June 13, 2022

Social Security benefits are available to individuals who paid Social Security taxes while employed and have reached a particular age.

Many people don't know that benefits may also be available to eligible family members, such as a spouse. Additionally, if the insured passes away, their spouse might be able to collect survivors’ benefits.

What Are Survivors’ Benefits?

Survivors’ benefits are monthly payments provided to eligible spouses, children, and parents. If your husband or wife died while collecting Social Security, you might be entitled to these benefits.

The amount you receive will depend on the number of credits your spouse earned. An individual can earn up to four credits every year. In 2022, workers earn one credit for every $1,510 they make in wages or self-employment income. Once they reach $6,040, they’re done with the maximum number of credits for the year.

Eligibility for Social Security benefits requires at least ten years of work, resulting in 40 credits. However, the younger someone is or the fewer years they worked, the fewer credits they have when they pass away. The average earnings over a person’s lifetime determine the amount of your monthly Social Security benefits, not the number of credits accumulated.

Who Qualifies for Survivors’ Benefits?

Spouses can apply for survivors’ benefits through the Social Security Administration upon their wife’s or husband’s death. If you were already collecting spousal benefits while your spouse was still alive, payments would convert to survivors’ benefits automatically once you submit the death certificate.

Eligible spouses include:

  • Widow or widower at least 60 years old or at least 50 if they are disabled
  • Surviving divorced spouse based on specific factors
  • Widower or widow of any age caring for the deceased's child who has a disability or is under 16 years old and collects child’s benefits

If you’re not married to the worker when they die, you are still entitled to survivor benefits if the marriage lasted at least ten years. However, you would be eligible without meeting the ten-year requirement if you’re caring for a child under 16 or with a disability who receives child’s benefits, and your former deceased spouse is the natural or adoptive parent of the child.

Amount of Survivor Benefits for a Spouse

The amount of your monthly payment will depend on your husband or wife’s earnings when they die. The longer they worked and the more money they paid into Social Security taxes, the higher your benefits.

Benefit amounts based on the type of surviving spouse are below:

  • Widower or widow, 60 years old, at full retirement age – 71 ½ to 99% of deceased’s basic amount of benefits
  • Widow or widower at full retirement age or older – 100% of the deceased’s benefit amount
  • Widow or widower 50 to 59 years old with a disability – 71 ½ % of the deceased’s benefits
  • Widower or widow of any age caring for a child under 16 years old – 75% of the deceased’s benefit amount

You could also receive $255 as a lump-sum death benefit as a surviving spouse. You must meet one of these requirements:

  • Lived with your spouse at the time of their death
  • Lived separately from your spouse but already received spousal benefits or became eligible for survivors’ benefits upon the worker’s death

Contact Us

If your husband or wife died while collecting Social Security benefits, you should contact us immediately. We can provide the legal guidance you need to pursue survivors’ benefits from the Social Security Administration.