Social Security: 10 Things You Need to Know About Survivor Benefits
- October 2, 2023
- Social Security
Did you know you are entitled to your spouse’s Social Security benefit when they pass away? At retirement, you might choose to collect either your own benefit or your spouse’s survivor benefit, whichever is higher. Many people don’t understand or know when to claim survivor benefits. The following are 10 key things spouses should know about Social Security survivor benefits.
- You are eligible to collect widow or widower benefits at age 60. If you are able to wait to claim the benefit, the monthly payment may be higher. Some circumstances allow you to collect before age 60: surviving spouses may be able to begin drawing benefits at age 50 if they’re disabled; and, surviving spouses can collect at any age if caring for a child of the late beneficiary who is younger than 16 or is disabled and entitled to childhood Social Security benefits.
- There is no set time frame for claiming survivor benefits. Your decision to claim can be based on what best fits your financial situation.
- You can collect survivor benefits even if your spouse hadn’t yet claimed Social Security at the time of death.
- Widows and widowers are entitled to 100 percent of their late spouse’s Social Security benefit if they claim survivor benefits at their own full retirement age. If the surviving spouse is age 60 through full retirement age, the widow/widower benefit will be reduced proportionately.
- When you file for survivor benefits, it must be done in person at a Social Security field office or by phone. There is no online application process.
- You can only collect a survivor benefit or your own retirement benefit, but not both.
- If you’re not yet receiving any Social Security benefits, you can apply for both that and survivor benefits at the same time. The Social Security Administration will then determine which is the larger and you’ll begin collecting that benefit.
- Divorcees who were married to someone for at least 10 years before splitting up may be able to collect survivor benefits on your former spouse’s earnings record when your ex has died.
- However, remarriage can disqualify you from receiving survivor benefits from an ex upon their death. If you remarry before turning age 60 (50 if disabled), you forfeit eligibility for survivor benefits on a prior spouse’s (or ex-spouse’s) earnings record.
- Unmarried, minor children of deceased workers are eligible to collect survivor benefits of up to 75% of what their late parent was getting.
Understanding how Social Security benefits are structured is crucial. Under the law, workers at Social Security are forbidden to give you advice on claiming benefits. They can explain how benefits work, but they cannot advise you.
The Social Security strategy for every person or couple is different based on income needs and other retirement assets. Make sure you understand the rules and create a strategy for drawing Social Security benefits that will have a positive impact on your retirement income.