No one likes to consider what life will be like after their spouse passes away. We especially don’t want to toil over cold financial matters, such as Social Security. However, a little preparation can go a long way. Knowing what happens to your Social Security now will relieve some of the stress involved in managing your affairs in the event of a life-altering event.

What happens to my Social Security when my spouse dies?
The bottom-line is that you can continue to collect your partner’s Social Security benefits. What you’re eligible for depends on how your partner was collecting Social Security when they died.

When your spouse passes, Social Security will issue a $255 one-time death benefit. You can then enable Social Security survivor benefits. The government determines how much you’ll receive based on the following factors.

Your spouse was collecting Social Security benefits when they passed. In this case, you’re eligible to receive the same amount. Depending on how long you wait to apply, this amount will reflect your current cost of living.

Your spouse was collecting Social Security benefits early. In this case, you’ll receive benefits, but they’ll be adjusted according to the value they would be worth if your spouse were still alive. If they had been collecting Social Security before retirement age, then the benefits will be lower.

Your spouse passed before applying and activating Social Security. In this scenario, you’ll be able to collect the full amount of your partner’s Social Security benefits once you hit retirement age. However, you can only collect the benefits of a single Social Security account. The government allows you to collect from the one that pays the most.

 What Else Happens to my Social Security Benefits?
There are a couple of things worth noting about Social Security in the event your spouse passes:

Disabled
Individuals with disabilities can collect survivor benefits at 50 years of age, rather than at the 66-67 years. Depending on the calculations at the time, these benefits can be reduced by up to 30%.

Remarried
Remarrying before 60 cancels out any survivor benefits you may have been entitled to. However, remarrying after the age of 60 keeps those survivor benefits intact. If you happen to divorce or become widowed again, the original survivor benefits can be reactivated.

Widowed
In the event you’re widowed again, Social Security will always pay out the highest amount of survivor benefits that you’re eligible for.

Divorced
You may still be eligible for Social Security survivor benefits even if you and your spouse divorced before they passed away. If you were married for at least ten years, then you can collect spousal survivor benefits, even if your spouse remarried.

Children
You can collect 75% of your Social Security survivor benefits at any age if you’re caring for the child of your spouse, and the child is under 16.

Don’t let Social Security be an additional worry
The unfortunate reality of Social Security is that a decision must be made even after a worst-case scenario. By understanding your options in advance, you can mitigate a lot of stress and grief. Remember that you can collect survivor benefits before the required retirement age, but these benefits will be reduced.