Can I Collect My Deceased Spouse’s Social Security And My Own At The Same Time?

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After the death of a spouse, navigating financial affairs can be challenging, particularly when it comes to understanding Social Security benefits. One common question among surviving spouses is whether they can collect their deceased spouse’s Social Security benefits in addition to their own. This article explores the rules and considerations surrounding the ability to collect survivor benefits alongside one’s own Social Security benefits.

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Understanding Social Security Survivor Benefits

Survivor benefits are payments made by the Social Security Administration (SSA) to the family members of a deceased person who earned enough Social Security credits. Eligible family members include widows, widowers, and dependents of the deceased.

Eligibility for Survivor Benefits

  • Age Requirement: You can start receiving survivor benefits as early as age 60 (or age 50 if you are disabled). However, the benefit amount will be reduced if you take it before reaching your full retirement age.
  • Marriage Duration: You must have been married to the deceased for at least 9 months before their death to qualify for survivor benefits, with some exceptions for accidental death or certain military or public safety positions.
  • Dependent Children: If you are caring for a child under age 16 or a disabled child who receives benefits from the deceased’s record, you can receive survivor benefits at any age.

Collecting Survivor Benefits and Your Own Retirement Benefits

The Choice Between Benefits

You cannot receive full survivor benefits and your own retirement benefits simultaneously. Instead, you can choose which benefit to receive if you are eligible for both. Generally, the strategy is to take the higher of the two benefits.

Strategy for Maximizing Benefits

  1. Taking Survivor Benefits Early: You may choose to take reduced survivor benefits as early as age 60 (or age 50 if disabled) and switch to your retirement benefit later if it will be higher at full retirement age or older.
  2. Delaying Your Retirement Benefits: Conversely, you might start with your retirement benefit and switch to survivor benefits later if the survivor benefit is higher. Delaying your retirement benefits up to age 70 can also increase your retirement benefit amount.

Impact of Working

If you work while receiving benefits and are under full retirement age, your benefits may be reduced depending on your earnings. The SSA adjusts these limits annually, so it’s important to stay informed about the current thresholds.

Applying for Survivor Benefits

Survivor benefits are not paid automatically. You must apply for them by contacting the Social Security Administration. This can be done over the phone, in person at a Social Security office, or, in some cases, online.


While you cannot collect full amounts of both your own Social Security benefits and survivor benefits at the same time, you can strategize to maximize the total benefits received over time. Deciding when and which benefits to take requires careful consideration of your financial situation, health, and retirement plans. Consulting with a financial advisor or the Social Security Administration directly can provide personalized guidance.


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