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

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, or FRA. For people claiming survivor benefits, FRA is currently 66. It will increase to 66 and 2 months for people born in 1957 and rise incrementally to 67 for people born in 1962 and after.

You can file for survivor benefits earlier — the minimum age is 60 in most cases — but your monthly benefit will be reduced by as much as 28.5 percent.

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.

Updated May 21, 2021