Skip to comments.Does a Surviving Spouse Always Collect 100 Percent of Social Security Benefits?
Posted on 10/12/2011 7:56:16 AM PDT by Kaslin
Dear Carrie: Does my wife collect 100 percent of my Social Security benefits at my death? Thank you. -- Bert
Dear Bert: I wish I could provide you with a quick answer to such a straightforward question. But as with so many issues related to government programs, there are a number of factors that come into play. So yes, it is (possible for your wife to collect 100 percent of your Social Security benefits after you die. But read on for some of the fine print.
Before we get into those details, I want to clarify that there is a difference between standard spousal Social Security benefits, which max out at 50 percent of the worker's benefit and survivor benefits, which can go as high as 100 percent.
In terms of survivor benefits, if you should die your wife's benefit will depend on three things: 1) when you begin to take your Social Security benefits 2) her age when she begins to collect survivors benefits and 3) whether or not you had started to collect benefits prior to your death.
Since I don't know the particulars of your situation, I'll just briefly lay out a few scenarios.
IF YOU TAKE YOUR BENEFITS AT FULL RETIREMENT AGE
The simplest is if you begin taking benefits at full retirement age (66 for those born between 1943 and 1954). That would mean you'd collect your full benefit and your wife, should you pass away before her, could then collect 100 percent of your benefits as long as she also was at full retirement age. This doesn't mean you absolutely have to start taking benefits at age 66. You could also choose to delay up to age 70. The advantage here is that the longer you delay taking Social Security, the larger your benefit--and the larger your wife's survivor's benefit--would be.
IF YOU TAKE YOUR BENEFITS EARLY
If you begin taking your Social Security benefits at 62, the earliest age you become eligible, your monthly benefit would be reduced permanently by about 25 percent. In this case, your wife's benefit is also affected. The IRS rules state that a widow or widower at full retirement age qualifies for 100 percent of what a spouse (set ital) has been receiving (end ital). So if you opt to take Social Security early, upon your death, your wife would collect 100 percent of your (set ital) reduced (end ital) benefits. Unfortunately, the IRS doesn't boost the benefit to the full rate when someone dies.
IF YOUR WIFE TAKES SURVIVOR BENEFITS EARLY
As I mentioned, a spouse at full retirement age can collect 100 percent of the deceased spouse's benefit. But a surviving spouse can begin to collect benefits at age 60 if necessary (or age 50, if disabled). In this case, however, the benefit is reduced by a small percentage for each month before the surviving spouse reaches full retirement age. This could potentially reduce the monthly benefit to between 71 percent and 99 percent of the full benefit.
For example, assuming that your wife's full retirement age is 66, if she started collecting survivor benefits at 60, she would get only 71.5 percent of your benefit. If she started at 62, she'd get 81 percent, and so on. The rationale is that by claiming benefits early, you receive them for a longer period of time so it potentially adds up to the same total. You can find a detailed chart of the various ages and percentages on the Social Security website at ssa.gov/suvivorplan.
IF YOU DIE BEFORE STARTING TO TAKE BENEFITS
Should you die before filing for benefits, no matter how old you are, once your wife reaches full retirement age she would qualify for 100 percent of the benefit you would have received (or her own benefit, whichever is greater). If she starts to collect early, however, it will be reduced as I just described.
STRATEGIES FOR TODAY
While your question concerns survivor benefits, you might also want to make sure you and your wife are maximizing the benefits you're entitled to today. For instance, if you've already filed for benefits, your wife could collect benefits either based on her own work history or the spousal benefit, whichever is higher.
If you haven't explored your various options, I suggest talking to your financial advisor to come up with the best strategy. You can also contact the Social Security administration. It offers information and counseling to help you weigh the different factors. You can speak to a Social Security counselor at your local SSA office or call 1-800-772-1213. Best of luck.
No, my Father got $90 when my Mother passed away.
If your SS is more than your wife’s, she will collect the greater amount....not hers plus yours.
Notice the surviving spouse MUST have reached retirement age to collect the spouses SS benefits. If the husband marries a woman 20 years younger than himself, dies at 70 (she’s 50), she must wait 16 years until she is 66 to collect the first dollar.
if it’s anything like calling the IRS, the answer depends on who you get when you call.
***If the husband marries a woman 20 years younger than himself, dies at 70 (shes 50), she must wait 16 years until she is 66 to collect the first dollar.***
Poetic Ponzi Justice!!!!!
When my Wife of 35 years died we were both not retired..
The feds gave me $255 dollars for the funeral (or whatever)...
THEN they stole all the FICA she and her employers put into the system.. STOLE IT!..
UNless there nothing at all to steal.. *(which IS the point)..
The social Security Trust Fund has been a MYTH for many decades..
“my Father got $90 when my Mother passed away.”
Huh? I thought the “death benefit” was $255. http://www.ssa.gov/pubs/10008.html That’s the amount any survivor receives no matter what their age is at their spouse’s death. The amount of monthly retirement they can receive in their spouse’s name depends on all the various factors cited by other posters.
my Father got $90 when my Mother passed away.
That was a long time ago and there was NO monthly payments.
I guess you can buy a really nice shovel for that money.
When my husband died 2 years ago, I was told I could collect nothing from his SS. If you are still working, you cannot collect a penny unless you make less than $14,000. Told the rep if I made less than $14,000 per year, I would kill myself.
By the way, he died on October 24th so they reversed his social security payment for the entire month of October. Should have told him to die on November 1st.
Exactly while which was suppose to be a safeguard for having enough money; instead the government steals the rest.
Also, military spouses are cut in half.
It won’t be long before homosexual butt buddies will be eligible for spousal benefits.
“military spouses are cut in half.”
Seems a bit Sharia-law.
Seriously - SS benefits shuold be a small part of retirement planning, but let’s be honest, SS withholdings are a small part of the paycheck. You only get 6.2% withheld, you still get 93.8% of your wages to live on and invest. We have the option of 401ks, so we all can have our private retirement savings accounts. If you are smart, you live on 78.8% of your income, put 6.2% into SS, and 15% into IRAs. Then when you retire, you live off a combination of the two. If you invest well, the SS check is an after thought.
Those hypercritical of SS say, “let me put my 6.2% plus the 15% into an IRA, and I’ll be better off.” That was certainly true in the 1980s and 1990s, but it hasn’t been true in 12 years, and may not be true again for another dozen years, no one knows. In the meantime, we ought to view SS as a modest part of our future. It’s only a small part of our income, and its future demise is highly exaggerated. (At worse, benefits will be cut from what was promised to 75% of what was promised — painful, but not fatal.)
You will know when this is about to happen as Gov. will start paying each spouse individually rather than using their current marital status to determine what they will get. This will be put forward as a simplification of the system. Nobody ends up winning though because as soon as one of you dies their benefit will disappear. oh and the benefit is usually halved.
Most countries work in a similar manner to this.
It isn’t 6.2%. It’s 15.3%, not a small amount by any measure.
Just because the employers doesn’t give your half to you, but sends it directly to SS instead, doesn’t mean that half isn’t out of your pocket. That was just part of the sleight of hand the Dems did so it wouldn’t look so big. Don’t fall for it, as nearly everyone has.
LoL... Amazing the confusion about SSA...
SAA is pure socialism.. its like a political disease.. sickening the whole culture..
Only 1/3 of the people on SSA are Old people..
The democrats have pulled the wool over republican eyes..
This program has been a brain hemorrhage since its inception..
It needs to be EXPOSED as what it is.. A SOCIALIST TROJAN horse.
It should be privatized..