When can a widow collect her husband's retirement?

A fellow caregiver asked...

What can a widow do if her husband was the money winner and she has to wait until retirement age to collect his retirement? Are there any other monetary options for widows?

Expert Answer

Barbara Repa, a Caring.com senior editor, is an attorney, a journalist specializing in aging issues, and the author of Your Rights in the Workplace (Nolo), now in its 10th edition.

I’m assuming there are no other lump sum assets—stock, bank or savings accounts, bonds—that he owned alone and to which the widow may be entitled now.

Be doubly sure that the retirement plan requires that widows reach retirement age before being allowed to collect benefits. Many have provisions that allow for earlier taking when death occurs, although the payments may be smaller. It is worth it to speak with the plan administrator to be sure.

If he worked in employment that was covered by Social Security, check with the Social Security Administration about survivors benefits. And if he was a veteran, the Veterans Administration may also make some benefits available.

Finally, there are programs that offer financial assistance to individuals who meet specific requirements. Check out the possibilities on the government website Government Benefits, Grants, and Financial Aid. And steer clear of services that charge a “processing” or “handling” fee before giving more information about such programs.