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US Government Information/Benefits to Wife From Deceased Ex-Husbands


Hi Darlene,

My 78 year old mother-in-law has been married 5 times and all her husbands have died, some during the marriage and some after divorce.

She currently is only receiving her own ss benefits and I told her that I have heard she could maybe receive at least some of her deceased husbands' benefits but I don't understand how it works.  She just sort of shrugged it off as too complicated to bother with but this woman could definitely use any extra income.

Is there a semi-simple explanation I can give her regarding whether she could she be receiving some or all of these men's benefits?   Thanks very much!

A woman who is married at the time of her husband's death after 9 months of marriage can qualify for a widow's benefit.

A divorced woman who was married for at least 10 years before the final divorce can qualify for a surviving divorced spouse benefit if the ex- husband has died.

She cannot receive a benefit from all, but she can receive from the husband's record that pays the highest benefit. Her retirement benefit continues and she receives the difference between the higher survivor benefit and her lower retirement benefit.

It is certainly worth looking into. She will want to call SS at 1-800-772-1213 to schedule an appointment to file. She can provide the Social Security number of one husband but before SS takes the application, they must check the record of all husbands to determine the one that pays the highest benefit.

If she does not have their SS numbers, there is a website I can provide that may provide the numbers. She will need a name and date of death.  SS can also look up the number if she provides a name, date of birth, mothers name and place of birth but sometimes they become lazy about helping.

Hope this helps good luck.


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Darlene Oldendick


Social Security retirement planning and all questions about Social Security eligibility and entitlement.


Worked for the Social Security Administration for 33 years


33 years employment with the Social Security Administration

Awards and Honors
Many outstanding performance awards while employed at the Social Security Administration

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