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When someone who was married more than once dies, who is eligible for their Social Security benefits?

En español | Anyone who was married to a Social Security beneficiary can potentially receive survivor benefits on the death of that person. That includes divorced former spouses as well as the deceased's husband or wife at the time of death.

In most cases, a widow or widower must have been married to the deceased for a minimum of nine months to qualify for survivor benefits. For a divorced spouse, the marriage must have lasted at least 10 years.

Eligible spouses and ex-spouses can receive up to 100 percent of the late beneficiary's monthly Social Security payment, if they have reached full retirement age (currently 66 and gradually rising to 67 over the next several years). You can file for survivor benefits earlier — the minimum age is 60 in most cases — but your benefit will be reduced.

Keep in mind

  • A widow or widower and a divorced ex-spouse (or multiple ex-spouses) can draw survivor benefits on the same person's earnings record without affecting what the other receives.

Reviewed February 4, 2020

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