Will my current wife still be able to collect survivor benefits after I die if my ex-wife holds a lien against my finances?

1 answer | Last updated: Nov 20, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

I have an ex-wife whoholds a lien against my tax refunds, inheritance,etc. I am disabled and she has garnished $450 per month from my benefit. When I die--I have been diagnosed as dying--what impact would that have on my current wife in collections of survivor type benefits?


Expert Answers

Barbara Repa, a Caring.com senior editor, is an attorney, a journalist specializing in aging issues, and the author of Your Rights in the Workplace (Nolo), now in its 10th edition.

To get an accurate picture of the possibilities, you may have to do a bit of investigating, digging up the relevant paperwork and contacting agencies that may be involved with any benefits to which you nay be entitled.

For example, your current wife--and perhaps the previous wife, too, if that marriage lasted at least 10 years--would be eligible for Social Security survivors benefits at your death if you qualify for either Social Security retirement or disability benefits now or in the future.

If your current wife receives survivors benefits from Social Security, your ex-wife cannot touch them.

This is also true of most private pension survivors benefits, although plans differ somewhat on this.

Also, check the exact wording of the lien, which should specify what happens in case of your death. If it is phrased broadly enough, it may extend to any inheritance that you receive during your lifetime, which often comes as a shock to the unwary.

If the issue is very important to you and your investigation turns up uncertain results, it may be worth the time and money to hire a lawyer to review the situation.