By Tony Collins, CFP®, AIF®, Associate Wealth Advisor
If the unfortunate time comes when you lose your spouse, it’s important to be prepared as the sole steward of your finances. Depending on your earning history and several other factors, you may be eligible to take over your spouse’s monthly Social Security benefit if that payment is larger than your own.
This can be especially impactful for those whose commitments have included a long period away from the workforce — as a stay-at-home parent, for example. One client that was eligible to utilize Survivor Benefits had chosen a career in public service. When his wife, a successful businesswoman, passed away, her monthly benefit was considerably larger than his.
In this blog, I’ll walk you through some of the factors you’ll need to consider when weighing eligibility.
As you likely know, most people become eligible to draw their own Social Security benefits at age 62. Each year you wait to draw until age 70, the monthly benefit amount becomes larger at a rate of approximately 8% annually.
The Social Security Administration has provided some guidance on eligibility criteria for Survivor Benefits. Generally speaking, if you were married for at least nine months, are not currently remarried, and are age 60 or older, you should be eligible for a portion of Survivor Benefits. Once you reach Full Retirement Age, usually around 66.5 years old, you should be eligible for the entire amount of your deceased spouse’s (or ex-spouse’s) monthly Social Security benefit.
Here are a few circumstances to consider:
Parents of Non-Adult Children: If your spouse passes away and you are caring for a child that is yours and your late spouse’s, you should be entitled to 75% of survivor benefits regardless of your age—at least until the child turns 16.
Parents of Disabled Children: If your child is disabled, you may be eligible for benefits that will help support them beyond age 16. In addition, they may be eligible for benefits of their own, too. If you are disabled and the disability started before or within seven years of your spouse’s death, you may be eligible to draw a portion of your deceased spouse’s benefits, even if you have not reached 60 yet.
If You Have Remarried: If you have remarried before turning 60 (50 if disabled), you will likely not be eligible for Survivor Benefits. However, if you remarried and subsequently divorced or that person passed away as well, you may be able to choose between former spouses to claim the greatest benefits. If you remarried after turning 60 (50 if disabled) this does not apply: You should be eligible for Survivor benefits on your former spouse’s record, even while married.
These are not easy scenarios to consider, yet they’re an important part of financial planning. If any of these circumstances hold for you, your HH advisor is ready to help guide you through your options.
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Halbert Hargrove Global Advisors, LLC (“HH”) is an SEC registered investment adviser located in Long Beach, California. Registration does not imply a certain level of skill or training. Additional information about HH, including our registration status, fees, and services can be found at www.halberthargrove.com. This article is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as a solicitation to offer personal securities transactions or provide personalized investment advice.