Can a Widow Collect Her Dead Husband's Retirement?

Losing your husband is hard enough. It's even worse if it means you have to worry about where you'll get your retirement income. Luckily, as a widow, you'll get money from most of your husband's retirement plans. What actually happens depends on what type of retirement plan your husband was using.

Social Security

If your husband had been paying into Social Security for at least 10 years, he'd be due to get its retirement payments. You'd inherit this benefit as a surviving widow. You can start taking payments as soon as you turn 60, or 50 if you're disabled. If you're caring for any children younger than 16 or are disabled, you can start collecting this money immediately. The longer you wait to get payments though, the more money you'll get per month.

Retirement Plans

You should be able to get money from your husband's 401(k) or an Individual Retirement Arrangement. If you were his beneficiary, you can move the money into your own retirement plan or start taking withdrawals right away. If there is no listed beneficiary, the money goes to his estate. That should pass over to you as part of the general inheritance. The only time you wouldn't get this money is if your husband willed the accounts to someone else.

Pension Plans before Retirement

If your husband had a pension plan at work, whether you can collect anything depends on whether he had retired and started getting payments before his death. If not, the money goes to you. Your husband's company could calculate the current value of his pension plan and transfer a lump sum payment to you. The company may also give you pension payments during retirement.

Pension Plans after Retirement

If your husband was already collecting pension payments, you may be out of luck. When your husband retired, he had the option of basing his pension on himself or both of you. If the pension was only based on his life, payments stop upon his death. If not, you'll keep getting monthly payments as if nothing had changed.

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