If your spouse passes away during working years, you are eligible to receive Social Security benefits on their record starting as early as age 60.
Even if your spouse was older and already taking their Social Security benefit, you cannot start a survivors benefit until you are 60 years old. The only exception to this is if you are caring for children who are either under 16 or disabled. In this situation, there is a possibility you could start collecting a Social Security benefit earlier than 60.
If you are widowed a remarry before age 60, you lose the ability to claim off your deceased spouse. If this marriage ends, you regain the ability to claim survivors benefits.
If you remarry after age 60, there is no effect on your ability to claim Social Security benefits on your deceased spouse.
If you start a survivors benefit at age 60, the benefit will be reduced from it’s full amount. To receive the full amount, you would have to wait until your Full Retirement Age (FRA) to start your benefit. You can learn more about what your Full Retirement Age is here.
There is one strategy that allows you to get some money while letting your own benefit grow if you are a widow or widower. If you also worked during your career and are going to have a sizable Social Security benefit, this strategy might work for you.
For example, Ellen and Bill both worked their entire lives. When Ellen was 58, Bill passed away. At age 60, Ellen applied for survivors benefits on Bill’s record. Then, when she hit her Full Retirement Age, which is age 67, she switched over and started collecting her own benefit.
This strategy allows her benefit to grow while she is still getting a check from Social Security on Bill’s record. This is not going to be right for everyone and needs careful planning to make sure everything is done correctly. Cardinal can help you with this.
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