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Question

I divorced in my fifties, after 25 years of marriage. I then married a couple of years later. When my husband and I visited a Social Security office about a year later to make some name changes, the agent said that if something happened to my current husband I could collect from my former husband's Social Security.

I have been reading that this is not true if you remarry before the age of 60, which I did. This is distressing, it would have been a great benefit for me to wait, until just after my 60th birthday to perhaps remarry. Is there anything I can do, after getting misinformation from a Social Security representative?

Answer

This can be a tricky area for sure and there is some misinformation out there, says Rick Fingerman, CFP®, CDFA®, CCPS™, managing partner at Financial Planning Solutions, LLC.

“The first hurdle is the 10-year rule,” he says. You must have been married for at least 10 years to be eligible to collect on an ex-spouse, and divorced for at least 2 years. “She certainly meets that requirement.”

“This ex-spousal benefit has two parts,” Fingerman explains. ”Collecting a benefit while your ex is still alive and collecting a benefit once they pass away. It appears that the Social Security Administration was referring to her ex no longer living, and the rule is, if she remarried before 60, she would not be entitled to a benefit.”

He adds, “The good news is, since she is remarried, as long as she has been married for at least a year, she is entitled to collect a spousal benefit based on her new husband's work history.” There are rules regarding how much she would receive however, as he needs to be collecting Social Security, and if she is under full retirement age (FRA) when she applies, her spousal benefit will be reduced from the 50%.

“Lastly,” says Fingerman, “if her new marriage lasts at least 9 months, she would be entitled to widow's benefits. Bear in mind, Social Security looks at her benefit amount to determine the maximum she could receive.”

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Question

I divorced in my fifties, after 25 years of marriage. I then married a couple of years later. When my husband and I visited a Social Security office about a year later to make some name changes, the agent said that if something happened to my current husband I could collect from my former husband's Social Security.

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