Surviving spouses may be entitled to a social security benefit based on the deceased spouses work record. Your age and family situation will determine your eligibility. If you are caring for a disabled or minor child under age 16, you qualify at any age as long as the child receives benefits based on your deceased spouses work history. If you are disabled, benefits may begin at age 50. In other cases, you may take benefits either at age 60 or your full retirement age. If you delay the benefit in this case, you will receive a higher monthly amount.
If your deceased spouse worked for ten years or more, they will have most likely earned forty social security credits. Credits are earned based on wage income in a year, this year; earnings of $4640 qualify workers for the maximum four credits available in any year. No worker needs more than forty credits and workers who have earned fewer credits may still qualify.
There are some additional situations that can affect eligibility. Divorced spouses of the deceased worker may receive benefits if the marriage lasted for ten years or more. Because of the recent United States Supreme Court decision which overturned part of the Defense of Marriage Act, legally married same sex spouses in Vermont will be eligible for this benefit. In any case, the basic eligibility criteria must be met.
Once you are receiving a survivors benefit, you may remarry after age 60, (50 if disabled), and it will not change your benefit amount. If you have higher lifetime earnings, you have the option beginning at age 62 to apply for benefits on your own record.