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How to Manage Death Benefits & More

The word widow sounds like it refers to “old” ladies. However, the average age of widowhood is just 59 years old. Many people who have lost a spouse may live several decades after the death of their loved one. According to the Financial Transition Institute (FTI), 80% of men die while still married, where 80% of women die single.

At Fujiyama Wealth Management, we’ll guide you through the grieving process and the uncertainty that comes with losing your spouse. You can rely on us to provide experienced financial advice for how to manage death benefits and more. Being widowed means learning to do new things on your own, all while fulfilling the roles of both spouses.  While that can be terrifying, ultimately you want to reimagine and then recreate a new life for yourself.

The following are some of the common questions prospective clients want to know after losing a spouse.


  • Can I Receive Benefits If I Am A Widow?

    Yes, if you are the widow or widower of a person who worked long enough under Social Security, you can receive full benefits at full retirement age for survivors or reduced benefits as early as age 60. If you qualify for retirement benefits on your own record, you can switch to your own retirement benefit as early as age 62. You can begin receiving benefits as early as age 50 if you are disabled and the disability started before or within seven years of the worker’s death.

    Also, if a widow or widower who is caring for the worker’s children receives Social Security benefits, they’re still eligible if their disability starts before those payments end or within seven years after they end.

    You can receive survivors benefits at any age, if you have not remarried and you take care of the deceased worker’s child who is under age 16 or is disabled and receives child’s benefits.

  • What If I Remarry After Age 60?

    If you remarry after you reach age 60 (age 50 if disabled), your remarriage will not affect your eligibility for survivors benefits. A widow, widower, or surviving divorced spouse cannot apply online for survivors benefits. You should contact Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 to request an appointment.  If you wish to apply for disability benefits as a survivor, you can speed up the disability application process if you complete an Adult Disability Report and have it available at the time of your appointment.

    Other Important Considerations:

    • If you already receive benefits as a spouse, your benefit will automatically convert to survivors benefits after we receive the report of death.
    • If you are also eligible for retirement benefits (but haven’t applied yet), you have an additional option. You can apply for retirement or survivors benefits now and switch to the other (higher) benefit later.
    • For those already receiving retirement benefits, you can only apply for benefits as a widow or widower if the retirement benefit you receive is less than the benefits you would receive as a survivor.
    • If you became entitled to retirement benefits less than 12 months ago, you may be able to withdraw your retirement application and apply for survivors benefits only. If you do that, you can reapply for the retirement benefits later when they will be higher.
  • What If I Am A Surviving Divorced Spouse?

    If you are the divorced spouse of a worker who dies, you could get benefits the same as a widow or widower, provided that your marriage lasted 10 years or more. Benefits paid to you as a surviving divorced spouse won’t affect the benefit amount for other survivors getting benefits on the worker’s record. If you remarry after you reach age 60 (age 50 if disabled), the remarriage will not affect your eligibility for survivors benefits. And if you are caring for a child under age 16 or disabled and get benefits on the record of your former spouse, you would not have to meet the length-of-marriage rule. The child must be your former spouse’s natural or legally adopted child. If you qualify because you have the worker’s child in your care, your benefit will affect the amount of the benefits of others on the worker’s record.

  • How Much Are Survivors Benefit Amount?

    The Social Security Administration will base your survivors benefit amount on the earnings of the person who died. The more they paid into Social Security, the higher your benefits would be. The monthly amount you would get is a percentage of the deceased’s basic Social Security benefit. It depends on your age and the type of benefit you are eligible to receive. If the person who died was receiving reduced benefits, we base your survivors benefit on that amount.

    These are examples of the benefits that survivors may receive:

      • Widow or widower, full retirement age or older — 100 percent of the deceased worker’s benefit amount.
      • Widow or widower, age 60 — full retirement age — 71½ to 99 percent of the deceased worker’s basic amount.
      • Disabled widow or widower aged 50 through 59 — 71½ percent;
      • Widow or widower, any age, caring for a child under age 16 — 75 percent;
      • A child under age 18 (19 if still in elementary or secondary school) or disabled — 75 percent.
      • Dependent parent(s) of the deceased worker, age 62 or older receive:

    One surviving parent — 82½ percent.
    Two surviving parents — 75 percent to each parent.

    Percentages for a surviving divorced spouse would be the same as above.
    There may also be a special lump-sum death benefit.

  • Is There A Maximum Limit A Family Can Receive?

    Yes, there is a limit to the amount that family members can receive each month. The limit varies, but it is generally equal to between 150 and 180 percent of the basic benefit rate. If the sum of the benefits payable to family members is greater than this limit, the benefits will be reduced proportionately. (Any benefits paid to a surviving divorced spouse based on disability or age won’t count toward this maximum amount.)

    The information above can be found on the social security website.

We will also help you determine if the following questions need to be considered.

Have You Dealt with Pension Survivor Options?

Have You Applied or Do You Have Social Security Spousal Benefits?

Do You Have Life insurance Proceeds?

Did You Change the Title on Your Home & Other Assets?

Are You Making Sure Your Bills Continue to Get Paid on Time?

Did You Update Your Will & Estate Planning Documents?

Did You Update Your Beneficiary Designations on Your Accounts?

Have You Figured Out if You Need to Take a Required Minimum Distribution (RMD)?

Are There Plans For Your Financial Future?