When can I apply for survivor's benefits?

Jamieg asked...

Can I file for survivor's benefits in January 2013 if I turn 60 in June 2013, or must I wait until I actually turn 60?

Expert Answer

You may not begin collecting Social Security survivors benefits until you actually turn 60 (NOT earlier in that calendar year). However, you should apply for your benefits about three months before you turn 60. That's to make sure that the Social Security Administration has enough time to process your claim and therefore can begin your benefits as soon as you are eligible. You can expect your first payment in the month following your birthday. In order to file a claim, you will need to collect several documents (certified copies) and pieces of information, including your birth certificate, proof of US citizenship or lawful alien status if you were born outside the US, your Social Security number and that of your deceased spouse, your marriage certificate, a death certificate or other proof of death, your deceased spouse's most recent W-2 forms or tax return, and the name of your bank and your account number (for direct deposit of your benefits). You will need to present these documents to a local Social Security office. It's best to make an appointment ahead of time. For more information about filing for survivors benefits, and how to set up an appointment, take a look at the Social Security Administration's survivors benefits web page[ssa.gov].