Dear Dr. Don,
My wife and I have been married for six years. If I got sick and passed away, would my wife qualify for my Social Security benefits when she gets to retirement age? I am 49 years old and she is 50.
— Dwight Dowager

Dear Dwight,
A spouse can qualify for widow’s or widower’s Social Security benefits if he or she was married to the deceased worker for at least nine months before the worker died. There are some situations when a spouse would qualify for benefits in less than nine months. Since you’ve been with your bride for six years, you’re well past that nine-month standard.

You may have confused the marriage question with how long a divorced spouse had to be married (10 years) to the ex in order to claim benefits (provided he or she didn’t later remarry).

The Social Security Web page, “Survivors Benefits For Your Widow Or Widower” explains which benefits she would receive if you should die early:

  • Your widow or widower can receive

    — reduced benefits as early as age 60 or full benefits at full retirement age or older.

    — benefits as early as age 50 if he or she is disabled.

    Note: If your widow or widower remarries after age 60 (age 50 if disabled), he or she will still be eligible for benefits on your record.
  • Your widow or widower who has not remarried can receive survivors benefits at any age if she or he takes care of your child who is under age 16 or is disabled and receives benefits on your record.
    Please note: If your widow or widower will also receive a pension based on work not covered by Social Security, such as government or foreign work, his or her Social Security benefit on your record may be affected.

So, you can stop worrying about Social Security benefits and making it to your 10th anniversary — enjoy your seventh year of marriage!

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