Ask Bob: If my spouse takes Social Security early, will that impact my benefit when he dies?

A husband's decision to take benefits early impacts his wife's benefit following his death. Adviser Brian Vosberg explains why.
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Question

My spouse took Social Security benefits about age 63 and 9 months, DOB 3/28/1926, DOD 3/16/2000. I began my Social Security benefits age 65. At his death, they raised my benefit to 100% of his reduced amount, approximately $8 more than my full retirement age amount. My DOB 10/21/1929. Should I have, by your reckoning, received 100% of his full retirement age benefit? Can you suggest who I might be able to contact?

Answer

By taking Social Security early, your husband received a reduced Social Security benefit, says Brian Vosberg, CFP®, president of Vosberg Wealth. His full retirement age was 65, and by taking benefits 15 months early he would have received about 91% of his age 65 benefit amount (Primary Insurance Amount).

“The Social Security Administration uses the term RIB-LIM to describe a special calculation that applies to survivor benefits of decedents that took benefits before full retirement age,” he explains. In this case since your husband took benefits early, RIB-LIM would apply.

“Since this applies,” Vosberg says, “you would be entitled to the greater of the amount your husband was receiving or 82.5% of your husbands Primary Insurance Amount. Since your husband was receiving 91% of his Primary Insurance Amount, that is the amount you would receive because it is greater than 82.5%.”

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Question

My spouse took Social Security benefits about age 63 and 9 months, DOB 3/28/1926, DOD 3/16/2000. I began my Social Security benefits age 65. At his death, they raised my benefit to 100% of his reduced amount, approximately $8 more than my full retirement age amount. My DOB 10/21/1929. Should I have, by your reckoning, received 100% of his full retirement age benefit? Can you suggest who I might be able to contact?

Answer

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