No one is comfortable talking about the death of a loved one, but if careful planning for your future is not done early in life, you may find that without a pension plan, you could very well be knocking on the door of poverty. This is why so many are planning early to set up some type of plan so that they are ready to receive widows pension benefits in their later years.

According to the Social Security Administration, every year about 5 million Americans are receiving monthly benefits based on their deceased spouse's previous earnings. If you are in the process of planning for your future, then here are a few things you need to know about pension plans and how they work.

How Are Social Security Benefits Calculated?

Social Security benefit levels are determined by the insured's Personal Insurance Amount (PIA). The amount received by a couple is usually 150% of this amount. However, if you were a widow who retired at the age of 65, you will be entitled to 100% of your spouse's PIA for the remainder of your life. This amount is only awarded to you if you are at least 65 or older when you claim your benefits.

But you can claim partial widows pension benefits as early as 60 years of age although the benefit payout will be only 71.5% of the PIA. This percentage will rise with each passing year so the longer you wait, the higher the benefits will be.

What If You Are Divorced?

Divorced widows or widowers are entitled to benefits as long as they do not remarry before the age of 60. If you do remarry, you will lose all of the benefits you would have been entitled to.

Joint and Survivor Annuity:

If your spouse was already retired at the time of his or her death, then you would be entitled to survivor benefits or a joint and survivor annuity payout. This is usually a plan that is offered by the employer of the deceased. Most of these plans will determine your benefit amount based on the number of years the insured has been employed with them and the amount of their earnings they had over those years. These plans can be quite complicated so the best recommendation is to consult with your spouse's human resources department to get a good clarification of what you can expect at the death of your spouse.

Determining the value of a widows pension benefits can be a complicated process and is something that no one really wants to talk about. There are many variables that will be taken into consideration including things like Veteran's benefits, Wartime Service Pensions, and Aid and Attendance benefits. Your best bet when you're looking to find out about the pension plans for your future, is to speak with a pension coordinator or the Human Resources representative of the company your spouse worked for. By doing this, you will come to a full understanding of all the benefits that you are entitled to.