Dear Penny: My Husband Died Recently. Am I Entitled to Survivor Benefits?

A woman looks sad sitting in a chair with an empty one next to it. This is meant to represent a widow.
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Dear Penny,

My husband recently passed. I’m not eligible for survivor benefits, but my son is. I was told by a friend I was eligible for widow benefits. I can’t find any information on that. I’m 54 and haven’t worked outside the home most of our marriage.

— Surviving Widow

Dear Widow,

I’m sorry for your loss. And I’m sorry I probably don’t have good news for you.

Your friend may be using a colloquial term for what the Social Security Administration calls “survivor benefits.” There’s no such thing, officially, as “widow benefits.”

You’re likely not eligible to receive survivor benefits because of your age. A surviving spouse can receive Social Security benefits starting at age 60 (or 50 if they have a disability).

To be eligible, your son must be under age 18 or living with a disability. If he’s under age 16 (or any age and disabled) and you take care of him, you could also be eligible for survivors benefits of your own. If that’s the case, and you were told you’re ineligible, check again!

If you haven’t already, you might also check whether your husband had a life insurance policy and made you the beneficiary. This should have been listed in his will if he had one. But, if not, you could also check with his last employer to see if they had a policy option for employees, search for his name and yours in your state’s unclaimed property database, and search the National Association of Insurance Commissioners’ (NAIC) Life Insurance Policy Locator online.

Dana Miranda is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance® and author of YOU DON’T NEED A BUDGET. She writes Healthy Rich, a newsletter about how capitalism impacts the ways we think, teach and talk about money.