You do not need to file an application for widow(er)'s benefits if:
You have reached retirement age and you were entitled to spouse's benefits for the month immediately before the month that your spouse died;
You were entitled to father's or mother's benefits for the month immediately before the month you reached retirement age; or
You were: (1) between ages 62 and retirement age at the time your spouse died and (2) entitled to spouse's benefits, but not to disability or retirement benefits. The spouse's benefits are automatically converted to widow(er)'s insurance benefits.
You must file a certificate of election to become entitled to widow(er)'s benefits if:
You are receiving reduced spouse's (or divorced spouse's) benefits and retirement or disability benefits in the month before the month of the worker's death; and
You are between age 62 and retirement age in the month of the worker's death.
Last Revised: Feb. 11, 2004
Social Security Handbook