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The Social Security Widow Benefit

What Social Security will pay to a surviving spouse


One of the most important features of Social Security is its provision of a benefit for a surviving spouse. While it's never fun to think about, either you or your husband will pass first. Here are some of the things to know about the Social Security widow benefit.

Calculating the Social Security Widow Benefit

How much will you receive from Social Security if your spouse pre-deceases you? As a general rule, the surviving spouse (male or female) receives an amount equal to what the recently deceased spouse collected while he or she was still alive. However, there are some exceptions of note:

First, your benefit cannot be reduced, so if your spouse's benefit was smaller than your own, his/her passing will not affect your benefit.

Second, if you have not yet reached your normal retirement age, your widow benefit will be reduced if you decide to collect it early. Note, you may not collect the Social Security widow benefit prior to age 60 unless you are caring for a child under the age of 19 (or 19 if the child is still a full-time student). If you are disabled, you may be able to receive the widow benefit as young as age 50.

One-time Death Payment

Social Security also pays $255 as a one-time payment upon death, if the decedent worked long enough. This payment does not repeat and does not affect any other Social Security benefits you may receive.

The Widow Benefit and Divorce

If your former spouse dies before you do and your marriage lasted at least ten years, you can collect benefits in the same manner as if you were still married at the time of death.

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