In the beginning social security only paid retirement benefits to workers, however later it was changed to include benefits for spouses and survivors. This benefit was made so that the surviving spouse would not lose their income when the spouse passed away.
Spouse Benefits are 100%
The spouse’s benefits is 100% of the spouses benefits after he/she passes away. IF the spouse with the higher benefit dies first then the lower benefit spouse will get an increase in his/her social security benefits, but if the spouse with the lower benefits dies first, then the surviving spouse will not see an increase in benefits.
Certain Eligibility Requirements
To qualify for social security benefits as a surviving spouse, you must have been married at least nine months before the death, unless the death was accidental. Divorced spouses may also qualify for widows benefits if they were married for at least ten years.
Certain Age to Apply
A widow can apply for survivor benefits at the age of 60 or 50 if there is a disability. However if the spouse decides to start collecting at 60 he/she will get a reduction for every month that he/she receives before reaching full retirement.
The Higher Benefits win Out
If you plan on receiving survivor benefits and have your own benefits then you will receive the amount that is higher. So you will receive more if your spouse had higher benefits but you will lose one of the benefits, either yours or your spouses.
Collect Widows Benefits and Then Switch Later
You can choose to start collecting widows benefits at the age of 60 or 50, and then when you reach full retirement start collecting your own benefits if these are higher. This will help you take full advantage of both social security benefits, both yours and your spouse’s.