Survivor Benefits: What Widows Need to Know


June 15, 2022

Did you know many widows are entitled to Social Security survivor payments, based on their late or ex-spouse’s Social Security record? The amount received is determined by the widow’s age, the amount of benefits they may be entitled to under their own record, and if they have children who are financially dependent on them.

Widow’s may be entitled to receive a survivor’s benefit under the following circumstances:

  • At age 50 if they have a disability.
  • At age 60 (the benefit amount will be reduced).
  • At any age, if they have a child under their care who is under age 16 or who became disabled before age 22.
  • If they were widowed and remarried after age 60.
  • If they are entitled to retirement benefits – but haven’t applied yet – they can decide to apply for either the retirement or survivors’ benefits first. Then switch to the other (higher) benefit later.

To help make this decision, it’s important to know your Full Retirement Age (FRA). FRA is when one can start receiving their full retirement benefit amount. For instance, if you were born between January 2, 1943 through January 1, 1955, your FRA is 66. If you start receiving benefits before your FRA, your benefits will be reduced, generally for as long as you continue to receive benefits.

There are many variables involved. Contact Social Security to discuss which benefit to take first – before applying for either benefit. You want to be sure you’re choosing the option that best fits your financial circumstances.

All the information you need is on the Social Security website. You must apply for survivors’ benefits over the phone or make an appointment to apply in person. You will also need to provide certain original documents.

Local Social Security offices are helping people in person with or without an appointment. This means staff will take applications in person and they will be available to help and answer any question you may have. I encourage you to call and schedule an appointment in advance to save time and so you have all the documents we need to help you in one visit. Please share this information with your friends and family – and post it on social media.

Our posting of this blog does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation of any non-Social Security organization, author, or webpages.

Author – Cindy Hounsell, President, Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement. 

We hope this information is helpful to you in the important work you do as a family caregiver.
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