The death of a spouse brings many questions and decisions about Social Security survivors’ benefits. Losing a spouse is tough enough. Dealing with all the financial and legal issues that arise after a husband or wife’s death can compound the surviving spouse’s grief and stress, especially when it comes to Social Security benefits. Attorneys with Jacksonville’s Harrell and Harrell can help. Social Security allows a widow (a gender-neutral term that applies to both widows and widowers) a choice between their own Social Security benefit based on work history, and a survivor’s benefit based on the deceased spouse’s work history. While you can switch between the two you, you cannot draw from both simultaneously. According to the law, you’re entitled to just one at any given time. So how do you choose? Answering a few questions can help you narrow down the best option.
- How old are you? Beginning at age 60, you are entitled to 100 percent of your deceased spouse’s Social Security benefit at full retirement. If you were born between 1945 and 1956, the full retirement age is 66. If you were born between 1957 and 1960, the full retirement age gradually increases to 67, where it remains for everyone born after 1960.
- Are you disabled? If so, you can begin receiving your spouse’s Social Security benefits at age 50.
- Do you plan to remarry? Be aware that a widow typically cannot receive survivor’s benefits if remarried before age 60. However, if you remarry after age 60, it will not impact your survivor’s benefits. Also, at age 62, you are entitled to Social Security benefits based on your new spouse’s work record if they’re higher than those of your deceased spouse.
- Are other family members entitled to your deceased spouse’s benefits? If so, know that the total amount paid to a family is limited.
- Do you plan to continue working? If so, and if you are able to cover your current expenses, you may want to hold off on drawing Social Security benefits until you reach full retirement. If you draw either your own benefits or survivor’s benefits before hitting normal retirement age, and if you earn above a specified level, Social Security will withhold part of your benefit.
This is just a sampling of the issues you may face while deciding whether and how to apply for Social Security or survivor’s benefits and how to maximize them. Don’t go it alone. Call 800-251-1111 and schedule a consultation with an experienced Social Security benefits attorney with Jacksonville’s Harrell and Harrell today.