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You may be surprised to know that it does not matter how long you have been married to collect Social Security benefits when a spouse dies.

If you are considering your options for retirement, Social Security will undoubtedly play a role in those thoughts. If you are married, you may be wondering, “How long must I be married to collect benefits when a spouse dies?” While it may seem morbid to think of such things, it is an important issue to educate yourself about so that if the unthinkable happens, you are prepared and do not have financial worries to add to an already stressful time.

If You Are Married When Your Spouse Dies:

To collect Social Security benefits at the time of a spouse’s death, it does not matter how long you have been married so long as you were married at the time your spouse died. While the length of the marriage does not matter, your own age does. You may collect the full amount of benefits if you are 60 or older, or you can choose to collect reduced benefits, starting as early as age 50. However, if you remarry before age 60, you can no longer collect these benefits. If you remarry after age 60, you may.

If You Divorced Your Spouse Before He or She Died and Have Never Remarried:

If you divorced your spouse, but were married for 10 years or longer, you may still be eligible to collect survivor’s benefits on your ex-spouse’s record. You must not have remarried since that divorce, and you must be 60 or older to collect the benefits. If you were married for less than 10 years, you cannot collect benefits.

If You Have Remarried Since You Divorced the Deceased:

If you were married to the deceased for over 10 years, but remarried either before or after his or her death, you will not be eligible to receive survivor’s benefits.