What is a Widow's Allowance

A widow’s allowance is an allowance of funds or personal property received by a widow after her husband's death to meet her immediate requirements. The amount of the allowance is decided by statute or court and is meant to protect the widow and family of a deceased person from financial hardship during administration of the deceased's estate. The relevant jurisdiction may have an established time limit dictating the length of time during which these benefits can be disbursed.

BREAKING DOWN Widow's Allowance

A widow’s allowance is a disbursement of funds that is sometimes also referred to as a widow’s benefit bereavement allowance or something similar.

The amount of the widow's allowance is either fixed by statute or, more commonly, determined by probate court on the basis of the deceased person's estate and the family's standard of living. The amount of this allowance is typically proportional to the size of the estate or pension involved. Under most circumstances, the widow's allowance is likely to be higher if the deceased was wealthy and left behind a large estate than if the family had a modest standard of living and the size of the estate is modest. The amount of this allowance may also be impacted by the age and dependency status of any children the couple may have.

Widow’s Allowance Names and Policies

Although traditionally known as a widow’s allowance in the United States, this financial process is also known as a widow, widower, or surviving civil partner’s allowance in some contexts and areas of the world. Some countries also allow for a widow’s allowance, or a similar disbursement of funds called by another name, for women who become divorced or separated after a certain age.

The terms can vary depending on the local vernacular and applicable financial systems. However, a widow’s allowance is generally something different than a widow’s pension. A widow’s pension generally refers to an ongoing, recurrent payment a surviving spouse may be entitled to receive as a beneficiary of a pension plan or retirement account. A widow’s pension can also refer to a recurring benefit payment a surviving spouse may receive from Social Security or a VA death pension. The criteria for qualifying for these benefits will vary according to the individual program, and will usually be spelled out in the written documentation and policies dictated in the program terms and guidelines. Likewise, the formula for determining the amount of these allowance payments will also be dictated by the program.