What You Need to Know to Claim Social Security Benefits if You’re Divorced or Widowed

The United States Social Security is one of the few entities that recognize the rights of a person who has remained by the side of another, often working side by side, even at home, to make a family and a home work. As these people are generally women, it is good news that they are not left unprotected after the death or divorce of the husband thanks to Social Security retirement. However, the benefit applies to spouses, regardless of gender, so it is important for people to know their rights. This is even more important for immigrants, who often arrive late in the United States in the course of their working life, and have not been able to accumulate the 40 credits, equivalent to 10 years of work, necessary to receive Social Security retirement.

Claiming Social Security After the Death of a Spouse

If your spouse worked in the United States and accumulated the required 40 credits or 10 years, you can claim Social Security benefits as a survivor. Here are the steps you need to follow:

  • Notify the death of the spouse to Social Security. This is usually done by the funeral home.
  • You can also do it in person at the Social Security offices. You cannot report a death or apply for survivor benefits online.
  • If you are not receiving benefits from your spouse, you should apply as soon as possible after death to avoid missing any delivery. The SSA page warns that payments may not be retroactive.
  • If you are already receiving benefits under your spouse’s record, the Social Security office makes any adjustment to your survivor benefits, once it receives information about the death of the holder.

Requirements to Receive Social Security Benefits After the Death of a Spouse

  • The widower or widow must be over 60 years old.
  • Must have been married to the deceased person for at least nine months at the time of death.
  • If you are caring for a child under 16 years of age born from the marriage, you can receive the benefits of the deceased’s retirement at any age.
  • There is also no age requirement to receive retirement from the deceased, if the death was accidental or in the line of duty as a U.S. military.
  • You can also receive the benefits of the deceased, if the survivor is 50 years old and becomes disabled.

Divorced Spouses Claiming Ex-Spouse’s Social Security

Divorced individuals can claim Social Security upon the death of their ex-spouse or ex-wife, if they have not remarried. A key requirement is that the marriage lasted 10 years. The person requesting the benefits must be over 62 years old, and their benefits for their own work must be less than those of their ex-spouse. They can also claim benefits from their ex-spouse, even if they have not applied for their retirement. The applicant may have been divorced for two years. To apply for benefits, you must present the marriage certificate and the divorce certificate to the Social Security Office.

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