Is a widow entitled to a deceased husband's pension benefits?

Written by amanda mcmullen
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A pension is a benefit that a retired employee or veteran receives regularly. When a pension recipient dies, his spouse may be entitled to receive her husband's benefits. Depending on the type of pension, the surviving spouse will need to meet certain requirements to claim the money.

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Social Security Benefits

If a widow's deceased spouse worked and paid Social Security taxes for at least 10 years, the surviving spouse is entitled to Social Security survivor benefits. The widow can receive full benefits at retirement age, or can opt to receive reduced benefits as early as age 60, as of 2011. If the widow is disabled, however, she can receive benefits as early as age 50. If the widow cares for a child of the deceased who is disabled or under age 16, the widow is entitled to receive benefits immediately.

Veteran Benefits

If the deceased was a veteran, the widow may be entitled to the Veteran Death Pension. The deceased veteran must have served at least 90 days in the military with at least one day served during a war. In addition, the veteran must have received an honourable discharge, and the surviving spouse must have an income that falls below a predetermined limit.

Retirement Plans

Most retirement plans allow the holder to designate a beneficiary to receive benefits in the event of the holder's death. If the holder is married and dies before designating a beneficiary, the benefits pass to the holder's spouse. If the holder of the retirement plan is divorced or unmarried and has not named a beneficiary, the benefits will pass into the holder's estate.

Divorce and Remarriage

Divorce and remarriage affect benefits differently depending on the type of pension. Some retirement plans, such as 401k plans, are divisible during divorce. After the divorce, the plan holder can change the name of the beneficiary. However, federal pension plans such as Social Security benefits will not change as a result of divorce or remarriage. The former spouse of a deceased person can apply to receive Social Security survivor benefits as long as the couple was married at least 10 years. However, if the former spouse remarries prior to age 60, she loses rights to these benefits.

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