Simply Money

Simply Money

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Yes, you can get Social Security benefits from your ex

My ex-husband died. Was told I could get a Social Security widow’s benefit. Is that true?

A: Yes, ex-spouses can qualify for a survivors benefit assuming they meet a few criteria. First, your marriage to your late ex-husband must have lasted at least 10 years; you must be at least 60 years old (or 50 if you’re disabled); you are single, or if you’ve remarried, your new marriage occurred after you turned 60 (or, again, 50 if you’re disabled). (Note: If you’re caring for a child from the marriage who is younger than 16 or became disabled before age 22, there are some exceptions to these rules.)

Assuming you qualify, you’re able to claim 100% of the benefit your ex was receiving at the time of his death once you hit your Full Retirement Age (FRA). If he died before claiming, you’re entitled to receive what he was eligible to receive. And generally speaking, if you claim before your FRA, your benefit will be reduced. And, just as a reminder, if you’re currently claiming benefits off your own work record, you don’t get both benefits. Social Security pays the higher benefit. (We should also note that any claiming you do off of your ex’s work record will not impact anyone else who may also be doing so, such as another ex-spouse or a widow.)

Here's The Simply Money Point: As always with Social Security, there can be nuances that make every single situation unique and more complicated than what ‘general’ advice can cover. We recommend talking with someone at Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) if you have specific questions about the ex-spouse survivor benefit. And a fiduciary financial advisor can be a helpful ally if you need guidance regarding how this benefit works within the scope of your retirement strategy.


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