Q. Please advise if, after the death of a husband, the surviving wife is entitled to receive her deceased husband’s full benefit? This was a recent discussion we had today with others.

A. A young widow with dependent children is entitled to a child-in-care benefit until the youngest child reaches age 16. After child care benefits cease, no benefit is payable to the widow until she reaches retirement age. Dependent children are entitled to survivor benefits until age 18; age 19 if still in high school.

A retirement-age widow receives whichever Social Security benefit is the greater amount – her own benefit or the benefit her husband would receive if still alive. If a widow is less than full retirement age when benefits begin, her widow benefit could be reduced for months of early retirement. A widow who has not begun her own benefit before being widowed has the option of which benefit to begin first. She can begin to receive a reduced widow benefit as early as age 60 (50 if she is disabled) and change to her own benefit at full retirement age or later. Her benefit reaches its maximum at age 70. Alternatively, she can wait until age 62 to begin her own reduced benefit and switch to an unreduced widow benefit at full retirement age.

Information about the family benefits Social Security provides can be found at https://www.ncpssm.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/EN-05-10008-2.pdf