It can be confusing trying to figure out how Social Security benefits work for divorced spouses or what happens when a spouse dies.
The are some special rules for divorced spouses:
If a spouse dies, the survivor will become eligible for survivor benefits, as long as they were married at least nine months (except in case of accident).
The survivor benefit is equal to 100 percent of the deceased spouses benefit. However, if the survivor's benefit is higher, that's the one they will receive.
If a husband and wife are already receiving Social Security benefits and are past FRA, the survivor would notify SSA that the other has died and they would switch her over to the survivor benefit if it is higher, and the other benefit would stop.
If the survivor has not yet started receiving Social Security when the spouse dies, he/she may apply for survivor benefits as early as age 60. The benefits would be reduced, so it may be wise to wait until FRA, depending on other factors.
Combing these scenarios, survivor
benefits for divorced spouses are the same as for widows, as long as the
marriage lasted at least 10 years. The
same benefit formulas, age requirements, and actuarial reductions apply.
There are many quirks and exceptions in these rules, so be sure to check with a financial planner, or contact the local Social Security office for help.