If You Are The Survivor
Just as you plan for your family’s protection if you die, you should consider the Social Security benefits that may be available if you are the survivor that is, the spouse, child, or parent of a worker who dies. That person must have worked long enough under Social Security to qualify for benefits.
How Your Spouse Earns Social Security Survivors Benefits
A worker can earn up to four credits each year. In 2021, for example, your spouse can earn one credit for each $1,470 of wages or self-employment income. When your spouse has earned $5,880, they have earned their four credits for the year.
The number of credits needed to provide benefits for survivors depends on the worker’s age when they die. No one needs more than 40 credits to be eligible for any Social Security benefit. But, the younger a person is, the fewer credits they must have for family members to receive survivors benefits.
Benefits can be paid to the worker’s children and the surviving spouse who is caring for the children even if the worker doesn’t have the required number of credits. They can get benefits if the worker has credit for one and one-half years of work in the three years just before their death. Each persons situation is different and you need to talk to a Social Security claims representative about your choices.
Who Can Get A Spousal Benefit
Current spouses and ex-spouses can both get the spousal benefit. You must have been married for over 10 years to get this income.
You also must be age 62 to file for or receive a spousal benefit. You can also wait longer. If you wait until you are at full retirement age to file, you will get a larger amount than if you file sooner.
If you are still married, you must wait until your spouse files for their own benefit. There are other rules if you aren’t still married.
You can receive a spousal benefit even if your ex-spouse has not yet filed for his or her own benefits. Your ex-spouse must be age 62 or older.
Taking a spousal benefit does not reduce or change the amount your current spouse, ex-spouse, or ex-spouse’s current spouse may receive.
What Does It Take To Qualify For Social Security Spousal Benefits
Unlike most rules related to Social Security, the rules for the spousal benefit entitlement are pretty straightforward and easy to understand.
If youve been married to your current spouse for at least one year, youre eligible for a spousal benefit under their work record.
Pretty simple, right?
You may also qualify for the spousal benefit If youre divorced but the marriage lasted for at least 10 years and youre not currently married.
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What Happens If One Spouse Dies
If your spouse passes away, you can collect a survivors benefit as early as age 60. You will be able to get the maximum benefit, or the full amount of your spouse’s monthly Social Security payment if youve reached FRA.
Before that, its reduced by 71.5%-99%. The amount it’s reduced by depends on how many years over 60 you are.
If you are the surviving spouse, you can restrict your application to file for either their own benefit or the survivor benefit. Later, you can switch to the other amount.
You might do this if your own monthly payment at age 70 would be larger than your spouse’s payment. You could claim the spousal benefit for several years, and then at age 70 switch to your own benefit.
If you are divorced and your ex-spouse dies, you might be able to get the same benefits as any current spouse. This is true if your marriage lasted at least 10 years or you are caring for a qualifying child.
Once you and your spouse have started getting Social Security benefits, the surviving spouse will have to choose one benefit. You can take either your spouse’s monthly payment or your own. You cannot get both.
If you live in the same household when your spouse passes away, you will also be able to get a one-time lump-sum payment of $255.
Divorced Spouse Social Security: Recent Rule Change
The basic rules for divorced spouses and Social Security say that if an individual was married for at least 10 years and then divorced, they are eligible to collect spousal benefits on the earnings record of their ex-spouse as long as they are at least 62 years of age and currently single. The divorced spouse can collect on the ex-spouses account under these circumstances even if the ex-spouse has remarried.
Furthermore, if the couple has been divorced for at least two continuous years, the ex-spouse can claim benefits based on the other partners earnings even if the latter has yet to file for benefits. This contrasts with the rules for current spouses, who cant collect benefits unless their spouse is already collecting them.
Ex-spouses who were born on or before Jan. 1, 1954, are allowed to file a restricted claim for spousal benefits at their full retirement age and suspend their own benefits until later, a practice known as file and suspend. This allows their own benefit to keep growing by 8% a year up to age 70, when their benefit maxes out. At that pointor sooner, if they wishthey can switch over to their own, higher benefit.
However, under the rule change, divorced spouses who were born on or after Jan. 2, 1954, are deemed to be filing for all available benefits when they apply for Social Security. They will automatically receive whichever benefit is higher, but they can no longer take one type of benefit now and switch to another one later.
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Your Social Security Decision Affects Your Retirement Income Plan
It’s important to develop a strategy for when you will claim your Social Security benefit and on whose wage record. Your decision can make a significant difference in your overall retirement income plan. Knowing that you may have a larger Social Security benefit coming from your ex-spouse could make a difference in your cash flow throughout retirement.
Take the time to create your retirement income plan with a Fidelity representative and see how your Social Security benefits as an ex-spouse could make a difference.
Report The Death Of A Social Security Or Medicare Beneficiary
You must report the death of a family member receiving Social Security or Medicare benefits. The Social Security Administration processes death reports for both. Find out how you can report a death and how to cancel benefit payments. In addition to canceling SSA and Medicare benefits, find out what other benefits and accounts you should cancel.
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What We Will Ask You
Depending on the information you provide, we may need to ask other questions.
You should also have your checkbook or other papers that show your account number at a bank, credit union or other financial institution so you can sign up for Direct Deposit, and avoid worries about lost or stolen checks and mail delays.
Who’s The Higher Earner
Compare the estimates for you and your spouse, and pay special attention to the difference between your estimates. The higher earner is the spouse with the larger primary insurance amounts .
When you’re deciding who will collect first and who should wait, consider having the lower earner collect first and having the higher earner wait. Over time, the higher earner’s increases will be worth more than the lower earner’s increases.
And if one spouse’s estimates are more than twice as high as the other’s, it might make sense for both of you eventually to collect on the same spouse’s earnings record.
In that situation, the spouse with the lower benefits can claim first based on his or her own earnings record and apply for spousal benefits later when the spouse with the higher benefits starts to collect.
The longer the spouse with the higher benefit waits to start collecting, the higher benefits will be for both spouses. Delaying the higher earning spouse’s benefits could also eventually increase the other spouse’s survivors benefits.
How To Calculate Your Own Social Security Spousal Benefits
The spousal benefit calculation is straightforward if you dont have a benefit of your own. Remember, in that case, its between 32.5% and 50% of the higher-earning spouses full retirement age benefit, depending on your filing age.
However, it can seem a little more complicated if you have Social Security benefits from your work history.
And to keep things interesting, the Social Security Administration decided that a different calculation method should be used to determine how much each benefit should increase/decrease based on your filing age.
As complicated as Social Security benefits can seem, there is a way to correctly calculate how much your spousal benefit will be if you qualify to receive it.
Check out this section of my video that goes over this calculation step-by-step. VIDEO: How To Calculate Spousal Benefits The RIGHT Way
If you understand how they break down the individual benefits, its not hard to use the table above to quickly figure out what your approximate benefit will be. Heres an example.
Joe and Julie each have a Social Security benefit from work they individually performed. Julies benefit at her full retirement age is $800 per month. Joes benefit at his full retirement age is $2,000.
Assuming they are both full retirement age when they file, Joe will be entitled to a benefit of $2,000 and Julie will be entitled to the greater of her own benefit or half of Joes benefit.
Sounds simple, right?
Benefits For Your Children
When you qualify for Social Security retirement benefits, your children may also qualify to receive benefits on your record. Your eligible child can be your biological child, adopted child, or stepchild. A dependent grandchild may also qualify.
To receive benefits, the child must:
- Be unmarried.
- Be 18 or older and disabled from a disability that started before age 22.
Benefits stop when children reach age 18 unless they are disabled. However, if the child is still a full-time student at a secondary school at age 18, benefits will continue until the child graduates or until two months after the child becomes age 19, whichever is first.
Benefits paid for your child will not decrease your retirement benefit. In fact, the value of the benefits they may receive, added to your own, may help you decide if taking your benefits sooner may be more advantageous.
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Divorced Know This Significant Exception To The Rule
When planning your Social Security filing strategy, its important to note that you cannot file for a spousal benefit until the higher earning spouse files for their benefit.
But this does not apply if your are filing for a spousal benefit from an ex-spouse.
If your ex-spouse has not applied for retirement benefits you can receive benefits on his or her record if you have been divorced for at least two years and your ex-spouse is at least 62.
How Much Can I Get
The maximum you can receive as a spouse or ex-spouse is 50 percent of your former spouses benefit at Full Retirement Age. So, if their benefit at Full Retirement Age would be $2,000 a month, you may be eligible to receive up to $1,000 a month if you wait until Full Retirement Age to file for spousal benefits. If your own benefit would have been smallersay $700 a monthyou will not be paid both youll be paid the larger amount between your own benefit and your spousal benefit.
How much you receive, though, depends on when you file. If you file at age 62, you will receive a smaller percentage of your spouses benefit roughly 30 percent versus 50 percent. Once you file for your benefits as a spouse, the amount you receive freezes at that amount for the rest of your life, which makes it worthwhile to see how long you can hold off. If you dont file until Full Retirement Age, the percentage increases monthly from 30 percent at age 62 to 50 percent at full retirement. For someone born in 1955, the proportion by age until Full Retirement Age is as follows:
If your spouse does not file for their own benefit until age 70, they will receive a delayed retirement credit. You, however, are only eligible for 50 percent of their maximum benefit at full retirement, though you still must wait until they file to receive your spousal benefit.
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Amount Of Spousal Disability Benefits
If the disabled worker is still living, a spouse generally receives 50% of the disabled worker’s primary insurance amount , although if the disabled worker’s children are collecting benefits at the same time, the spouse’s benefit can be reduced. The total of the spouse’s benefit and the children’s benefit cannot be greater than the maximum family benefit, which is generally 150% of the disabled worker’s monthly SSDI benefit.
The amount a surviving spouse will receive depends on how old the spouse is and whether the spouse is taking care of the deceased worker’s children. The amount varies between 75% and 100% of the deceased worker’s monthly amount.
In addition, if a disabled worker dies while receiving Social Security benefits, the surviving spouse will receive a death benefit worth several hundred dollars if the surviving spouse was living in the same household.
What Is A Social Security Card
Your Social Security card is an important piece of identification. You’ll need one to get a job, collect Social Security, or receive other government benefits.
When you apply for a Social Security number , the Social Security Administration will assign you a nine-digit number. This is the same number that is printed on the Social Security card that SSA will issue you. If you change your name, you will need to get a corrected card.
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Eligibility When Your Ex
If your ex-husband dies, you may receive benefits on his record, as long as your marriage lasted for at least 10 years. If you dont meet the 10-year marriage rule, you can still qualify for benefits if all of the following are true: youre caring for your ex-husbands natural or legally adopted child the child is under age 16, or disabled, and the child is getting benefits on your ex-husbands work record. Your benefits will continue until the child reaches age 16 or the childs disability ceases. The amount of benefits you receive as a divorced spouse will not affect the amount of benefits other survivors receive on your exs record.
Amount Of Spousal Benefit
Your spouse is entitled to up to 50% of your monthly benefit amount, subject to a family maximum amount.
If your spouse has his or her own qualifying earnings record with Social Security, the SSA will pay that benefit amount first. However, if the amount that your spouse is entitled to based on your record is higher, the SSA will combine the benefits to make sure that your spouse receives the higher amount.
If your spouse begins to collect the spouse’s benefit between age 62 and his or her full retirement age, the monthly benefit amount will be permanently reduced. The Social Security Administration calculates the reduction amount using a formula based on the number of months from when benefits began until full retirement age.
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More Than Just Income: The Social Security Spousal Benefit And Medicare Coverage
If you are eligible for a Social Security spousal benefit, you are also entitled to premium free part A Medicare at age 65. The catch?
Youre entitled to Medicare only if your spouse is at least 62 years old.
If you are more than 3 years older than your spouse, you may have to buy Medicare Part A until your spouse turns 62. Thats when your premium-free benefit would start. The Part A monthly premium is $422 in 2018.
Please Answer A Few Questions To Help Us Determine Your Eligibility
Workers who have a long-term disability and have earned sufficient Social Security credits are often entitled to a monthly Social Security disability benefits, and sometimes their spouses are entitled to collect a monthly spouse’s benefit as well. Spouses married for at least a year, divorced spouses who were married at least 10 years, and surviving spouses can be entitled to benefits based on the earnings record of the disabled spouse .
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The Social Security Administrations Rules On Common
The Social Security Administration is not known for their simple, plain language in most cases. So you might be surprised to learn that when it comes to common-law marriages and Social Security benefits
The rules are actually quite straightforward! According to the SSA, a common-law marriage is a valid marriage. And as such, a common-law couple will be able to claim the same benefits as a couple who followed the traditional marriage route.
When Is The Best Time To Claim On Your Ex
When to claim depends on how long you think you’ll live. If you are generally healthy and active or have relatives who have lived a long time, you’ll probably want to plan for 20, 25, 30, or more years in retirement. With Social Security, the longer you wait to claim, the larger the amount of monthly payments you’ll generally receive on your own work record. However, your benefit as an ex-spouse will not get any larger than half your ex’s PIA. And, that is only if you wait until your FRA to claim.
Let’s look at an example: Clair and her ex were married for 17 years, from 1975 to 1992. She worked and qualifies for her own Social Security benefits. Now, at age 64 , Clair is thinking about retirement and wants to know when she should claim, on whose record, and how much she would receive in monthly benefits under each scenario.
|Clair claims at 64|
|For illustrative purposes only.|
If Clair claims at 64, she locks in a permanent reduction of her monthly benefits. If she waits till 70, she’ll get a higher amount, but would have to use other assets to pay her retirement expenses between now and age 70.
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