SSA Survivors benefits: when a second marriage ends, then what?

Q: I was widowed after a long marriage, remarried for a few years and then divorced. At age 61, I am not married now. Can I receive Social Security benefits through the record of my first husband?

A: Probably you can, assuming that he had worked long enough to be insured for Social Security. 

The general rule concerning Social Security survivors benefits and remarriage is that you cannot get widow or widower’s benefits if you remarry before age 60. Remarriage after age 60, or age 50 if you are disabled, will not prevent you from getting survivor benefits based on your deceased spouse’s work record. Survivor benefits are the same for both women and men.

People die at all ages and there variations of Social Security survivors benefits. Contact Social Security and ask about your specific situation before getting remarried. 

What happens if a subsequent marriage ends by death or divorce? If by death, there is the possibility of Social Security survivors benefits as widow or widower through the record of either the more recent or the prior spouse. If either marriage ended in divorce, but had lasted at least 10 years, there is also the possibility of benefits as a divorced surviving spouse.

Reduced age based survivor benefits can start at age 60. Reduced retirement based on your own work can start at age 62. Estimated Social Security benefits on your own work are available online at www.socialsecurity.gov. An estimate on the record of someone else, such as your first husband, is not available online. Contact Social Security for this estimate. If eligible for both survivors benefits and from your own work, you can start the lower amount first, and then switch to the larger amount in the future. 

More about Social Security survivors benefits is at www.socialsecurity.gov.  Also read the SSA booklet “Survivors Benefits” at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10084.html or available from any SSA office. 

 Contact Social Security by calling the national toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778), or your local office. 

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