Can an Ex Wife Receive Social Security Benefits From a Dead Husband?

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Your survivors benefit amounts are based on your deceased ex-husband's history of earnings.
Your survivors benefit amounts are based on your deceased ex-husband's history of earnings. (Image: Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images)

If you’re an ex-wife of a deceased husband, you are eligible to receive Social Security survivors benefits. The Social Security Administration paid more than $4 billion in survivors benefits to 4 million widows and widowers in 2009. You are paid monthly survivors benefits after you reach a certain age and have satisfied the program’s requirements.

Requirements

For you to receive Social Security survivors benefits off your dead ex-husband’s record, you must meet the requirement of a widow or widower. You must be at least 60 years old and must have been married to him for at least 10 years. You are still eligible to receive survivors benefits off his record if you get married again after the age of 60 or 50 if you are disabled.

Payment Amounts

Your benefit amounts are determined by your age. The Social Security Administration pays you 100 percent of your full benefit rate if you are at full retirement age, which is 66 if you were born between 1945 and 1961 and 67 after 1962. Up to 71.5 percent of your benefit rate is paid to you if you are between the ages of 60 to full retirement age or between 50 to 59 and are disabled. You can be any age and receive 75 percent if you are caring for your deceased ex-husband’s children who are under the age of 16.

Considerations

If you are caring for your dead ex-husband’s children who are 16 years or younger, you don’t have to satisfy the marriage rule. The amounts you receive do not affect the payments collected by your ex-husbands current family members, which together is limited to 180 percent of his full benefit rate. Your benefits may be decreased if you have earnings that are not covered by Social Security, such as government pensions.

Taxation

Your survivors benefits are considered taxable compensation by the Internal Revenue Service if you have other income such as work earnings or dividends. The Internal Revenue Service taxes up to 50 percent and 85 percent of your Survivors payments at normal income tax rates if your income is over $25,000 and $34,000 respectively. If you’re married, 50 percent of your benefits are subject to taxation if your household income exceeds $32,000 and up to 85 percent is taxed if it tops $44,000.

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