Expensive Penny: Will Social Safety Inform Me When My Ex-Husband Dies?


Expensive Penny,

My now-ex-husband is 13-plus years older than I’m, and he earned extra money over the course of his profession than I did. We have been married for greater than 10 years, and I’ve not remarried.   

I’ve consulted a few Social Safety planners. As a result of my Social Safety advantages are larger than 50% of his advantages AND I’m more likely to outlive him by a decade or two, they suggest I declare Social Safety ASAP by myself advantages and accumulate the much-higher survivor advantages when he passes.

When my ex utilized for Social Safety, he famous I used to be his spouse at the moment, and I’ve revenue taxes and a divorce decree as proof of our common-law marriage lasting greater than 10 years, so I plan to supply that data to Social Safety after I declare subsequent yr.  

My inquiries to you: Since he and I are estranged, will Social Safety routinely notify me of his loss of life, so I can swap to the much-higher survivor profit? If not, how can I probably know when to make the change?

Do you agree with the 2 Social Safety planners that my greatest plan of action primarily based on our age and revenue variations is to assert my very own advantages early and survivor advantages later?


Expensive Okay.,

I wouldn’t rely on Social Safety connecting the dots right here.

Normally, the funeral dwelling alerts Social Safety when somebody dies. If somebody is already claiming spousal advantages — that are additionally obtainable to ex-spouses in lots of circumstances — Social Security will routinely convert them to survivor advantages. The distinction may be substantial. Spousal advantages max out at 50% of the individual’s full profit, whereas survivors can obtain as much as 100%.

Earlier than I am going additional, let’s acknowledge the elephant within the room: Planning Social Safety advantages round an ex-spouse’s loss of life can really feel a bit crass. However this isn’t about rooting to your former husband’s demise. Your purpose is to make sure you’re not leaving benefits on the table, which is a should for anybody receiving Social Safety.

It’s completely allowable to claim an ex-spouse’s Social Security for those who have been married a minimum of 10 years, you’ve been divorced for 2, and also you haven’t remarried. The logic is that each spouses contribute economically, even when one partner doesn’t work or earns considerably much less.

That infuriates lots of people. However it actually shouldn’t. Once you take advantages on an ex-spouse’s report, it has zero influence on their advantages or the advantages their surviving partner receives.

Social Safety critiques its data yearly to see if beneficiaries qualify for increased widow or widower’s advantages. However lots of people fall via the cracks. Final yr, an inner Social Safety audit discovered that about 15,000 folks claiming on their very own data certified for increased survivor advantages.

So how do you just be sure you’re not certainly one of them? One choice can be to arrange a Google Alert to your ex-husband’s title. If a web-based obituary have been to be revealed, you’d get a notification. This isn’t foolproof, and it might not show sensible if he has a brilliant widespread title.

One other good answer is to name Social Safety each six months. So long as you’ve got your ex’s Social Safety quantity, the company ought to be capable to decide whether or not he’s nonetheless dwelling. The rationale to name twice a yr is that Social Safety will pay as much as six months’ of retroactive advantages, so for those who be taught that your ex-husband not too long ago died, you’d be capable to get again pay for the survivor profit.

To get survivor benefits, you’ll should fill out a brand new utility by telephone or by visiting your native workplace. There’s no solution to apply for survivor advantages on-line. Maintain onto the paperwork you’ve got, as you’ll want to supply proof that you simply have been married.

Finally, I’m not so involved about the way you’ll discover out about your ex-husband’s loss of life. That type of data tends to unfold rapidly on this digital age.

What worries me extra is your plan to take advantages as quickly as you flip 62. The truth is that about half of seniors depend on Social Safety for a minimum of 50% of their incomes. By taking your profit at 62, you’d get about 76% much less monthly than you’d by beginning at 70.

Statistically, sure, you’re more likely to outlive your ex-husband. However you possibly can’t make such essential monetary selections solely on the idea of a life expectancy desk. Your ex-husband might reside to be 95 or 100. Are you ready to reside off your personal decrease profit for twenty years or extra?

I wouldn’t make any selections on the idea that you simply’ll get the next survivor profit sooner or later. Solely begin taking Social Safety subsequent yr for those who’re OK with receiving a completely decreased profit for the foreseeable future.

Robin Hartill is a licensed monetary planner and a senior author at The Penny Hoarder. Ship your tough cash inquiries to [email protected].


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