My ex-husband recently died. He was 59. I am 64. Am I entitled to his SS?

1 answer | Last updated: Sep 16, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

I was married for 13 years. I have never remarried. I started receiving my SS benefits 2 years ago. My ex-husband recently passed away. Am I entitled to his SS benefits or do I have to wait 3 years when his 62nd birthday passes?

Expert Answers

You do NOT have to wait until your late husband's 62nd birthday to claim Social Security survivor's benefits based on his work record. If he qualified for Social Security retirement benefits based on his own work record (even though he did not get a chance to claim them), you can claim Social Security survivor's benefits in an amount that is based on his earnings record. If your Social Security survivors benefits based on his work record would be higher than your own retirement benefits, you can switch from your retirement benefits to survivors benefit. However, you cannot collect both benefits at the same time. Your local social Security office can tell you which of the benefits would be higher, and switch you to survivors benefits if that is the higher amount.

As with your own retirement benefits, your Social Security survivor's benefits will be lower if you claim them before you reach your own full retirement age (66). Also, if you claim survivors benefits before you reach your full retirement age, your benefits will be reduced if you also work and earn more than the year's limit ($14,640 per year in 2012). Once you reach full retirement age, you can work and earn any amount without any reduction in your social Security survivors benefits.

By the way, since you are over age 60, you may remarry without losing survivors benefits based on your deceased husband's work record. If you become entitled to new dependents or survivors benefits based on a new husband's work record, you can choose to collect the higher benefits, but not both.