Unfortunately, the death of a spouse is an inevitable fact of life in retirement. It will happen sooner or later, and so it is important to know the financial outcome for the surviving spouse related to Social Security.
Will describe a couple of circumstances and how the surviving spouses Social Security may be impacted.
Scenario 1 – Both spouses are past full retirement age and receiving Social Security
In this first circumstance, the surviving spouse will retain the higher of the two Social Security benefit amounts and give up, permanently, the amount of the lower Social Security benefit. The surviving spouse will need to contact the Social Security Administration and provide proof of death in order to make the needed adjustments.
Scenario 2 – Surviving spouse is younger than full retirement age
The exception to the first scenario would be if the surviving spouse is not yet reached the age of their Full Retirement (based upon their date of birth). If this surviving spouse activates the survivor benefit before FRA, the survivor benefit will be reduced based upon the number of months that is being claimed early.
Scenario 3 – Surviving spouse remarries after the age of 60
If a surviving spouse remarries another individual after the age of 60, they can choose the higher of their survivor benefit or their spousal benefit on the new marriage.
Scenario 4 – Surviving spouse remarries before the age of 60
If a surviving spouse remarries another individual before their age of age 60, they will lose entitlement to the survivor benefit on the previous marriage.
Keep in mind that in each of the scenarios described, if the surviving spouse has their own Social Security benefit that it is important to coordinate the timing of which benefit is activated and when. Recent articles have shown that even the Social Security Administration has been giving recipients bad advice about which benefit to claim, which is cost recipients millions.
If you have questions about how to coordinate survivors benefits, please contact me.