Ask the Hammer: Should I Take the Survivors Benefit or My Social Security Benefit?

Ask the Hammer: Should I Take the Survivors Benefit or My Social Security Benefit?

Ask Bob: Can I claim my ex-husband's Social Security benefits when he dies?

A reader wonders if she has any claim to her former spouse's Social Security benefits when he dies.
Author:
Publish date:

Question

My ex-husband is dying. Can I collect any of his Social Security when he passes?

Answer

In short, in most cases, the answer is yes if you meet these qualifications, says Matthew Allen, co-founder and CEO of Social Security Advisors:

  1. You were married for at least 10 years before you got divorced
  2. You’re not remarried currently (unless you remarried after 60)
  3. You are at least 60 years old

Keep in mind that if you also worked and paid into Social Security over your career and have not claimed benefits yet, you likely can receive benefits from your record and also your ex-spouse’s (but not at the same time), he says. This is called Dual Entitlement.

“Because you cannot receive benefits from both your own record and your ex-spouse’s record at the same time however, it is very important to determine exactly when you should claim benefits on each record,” notes Allen. “You should pursue a strategy that maximizes the benefits you receive from each record.”

If you have claimed benefits, are over your full retirement age (FRA), and meet the conditions mentioned above, as long as your ex-spouse’s benefit amount is higher than your own, you can switch to that higher benefit as a survivor, he says. That will then last for the balance of your lifetime (adjusted each year for inflation).

Leyla Morgillo, a Certified Financial Planner™ with Madison Financial Planning Group, adds that the reader can receive a one-time lump sum death payment of $255 if she was living with her ex-husband, and notes there are three different ways to qualify for benefits:

Social Security Spousal

Allen suggests using a professional Social Security adviser to help you make the best decisions. Most financial advisors don’t specialize in Social Security and the Social Security Administration is not legally allowed to provide advice. Work with a Social Security advisor that has actual hands-on experience dealing with the Social Security Administration in a situation like yours. A good test question for you to ask is “How is a restricted application used in a survivor benefit case for someone with Dual Entitlement?” If they can’t answer that question off the cuff, move on.

Got questions? Get answers!

Email Robert.Powell@maven.io

Question

My ex-husband is dying. Can I collect any of his Social Security when he passes?

Answer

In short, in most cases, the answer is yes if you meet these qualifications, says Matthew Allen, co-founder and CEO of Social Security Advisors:

Member Exclusive

Get Access to Our Exclusive Content