What Happens to a Surviving Spouse’s Social Security Benefits After the Death of His/Her Spouse?

By Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. of Hanlon Niemann & Wright, a Freehold, NJ Elder Care Attorney

What happens to Social Security benefits when someone dies? Specifically I am talking about the entitlements of a surviving spouse.

These benefits are commonly referred to as survivor benefits. Other family members, such as disabled children (provided the disability began before age 22), may be entitled to survivor benefits but this post will focus on the surviving spouse.

Generally, the surviving spouse is entitled to 100% of the deceased spouse’s Social Security benefit provided it is greater than his/her own benefit. In other words, the surviving spouse will receive either his/her own benefit or the deceased spouse’s benefit, whichever is great, but not both. The surviving spouse will also receive a one-time death benefit payment of $255.

Additionally, the surviving spouse must be age 60 or older or 50 or older provided he/she is disabled from a disability that began no later than 7 years after the deceased spouse’s death. The surviving spouse must have been married to the deceased spouse at least 9 months and is not currently remarried where the marriage occurred before he/she turned age 60.

An ex-spouse may also collect survivor benefits under certain circumstances. The ex-spouse must have been married to the deceased ex-spouse at least 10 years. The age 60 or age 50 with a disability requirements are the same as the married surviving spouse. Finally, the ex-spouse must not be remarried in a marriage that occurred before age 60.

To discuss your NJ Elder Care matter, please contact Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. toll-free at (855) 376-5291 or email him at fniemann@hnlawfirm.com.  Please ask us about our video conferencing consultations if you are unable to come to our office.