Spouse To Survivors Benefits: Automatic Or Application Required?

Sometimes the conversion of spouse’s Social Security benefits to Survivors benefits is done automatically and sometimes it requires more information. How will you know which to expect?

If you’re getting benefits as a wife or husband based  solely on your spouse’s work, we’ll change your payments to
survivors benefits when you report the death of your spouse to us.  Generally, you are receiving a spouse’s benefit because you do not have a work history or you did not have enough work credits to qualify on your own. In this situation, we can take the needed information from you over the phone and automatically convert your spouses benefit (wife or husband) to survivors benefits (widow or widower).  Usually, the remaining spouse does not want to delay receiving benefits, so no other considerations are needed.

If you’re getting benefits based on your own work, call  or visit us. We’ll check to see if you can get more money
as a widow or widower. If so, you’ll get a combination  of benefits that equals the higher amount. Since you have income from your own benefits that will continue after your spouse’s death, we need to talk with you to see if you want to begin receiving survivors benefits now (if the amount is higher.)  You may choose to continue your retirement benefit and take survivor’s benefits later.  You must  complete an application to switch to survivors benefits.   We also need to see your spouse’s death certificate.