Widows are entitled to receive 75 to 100 percent of their deceased spouse's Social Security benefit after age 60. The amount of the benefit depends on the age of the widow, whether she has children under age 16, how much she earns through her own work, and whether or not she remarries.
Generally speaking, a widow can only receive survivor benefits if she has reached the age of 60, at which point she is entitled to 71 to 99 percent of her deceased spouse's benefit. At full retirement age, which was 65 as of March 2011, she is entitled to 100 percent of her deceased spouse's benefit. The benefit is determined by how much the worker paid into the Social Security system during his lifetime. A yearly statement is mailed to each person who has paid into the Social Security system and outlines the benefit.
If You Have Children
If you, as a widow, also have a child under the age of 16 who was the biological or adopted child of your deceased spouse, you may receive up to 75 percent of your benefit before retirement age while your child is under the age of 16. Your child may also receive a benefit up to the age of 18 and your combined family benefit can be between 150 and 180 percent of the worker's benefit.
If you were married to the worker for 10 years or more, you are eligible for the survivor benefit even if you divorced. Likewise, if your spouse was married to someone else before your marriage, and the marriage lasted 10 years, you are both eligible. The other spouse's claim will not impact your benefit amount. If, however, you remarry before age 60, (age 50 if disabled), you lose eligibility for your deceased spouse's benefit.
If you are employed, and you earn wages above what you earn from Social Security, your benefit may be reduced somewhat during your earning years. The Social Security Administration has a table under How Work Affects Your Benefit that shows what the income limits are and how they impact your benefit. (see Resources)