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Widow’s dilemma: When to assert Social Security

Share this…FacebookPinterestTwitterLinkedin One of the vital troublesome — and important — duties of a monetary adviser is to assist a…

By Staff , in Social Security , at January 5, 2022

One of the vital troublesome — and important — duties of a monetary adviser is to assist a shopper deal with the dying of a partner. Among the many myriad monetary choices {that a} new widow or widower should make is that if, when and tips on how to declare Social Security survivor advantages. A number of advisers contacted me over the vacations with questions on survivor advantages.

Barbara in Omaha stated she’s working with a latest widow who’s 63. Her partner died final July, additionally age 63. Neither had claimed Social Security but.

“I’ve had a horrible time getting solutions from Social Security Administration on the subject, together with disconnected calls and one less-than-polite SSA rep,” she wrote. “The widow has a small Social Security good thing about $930 per 30 days at her full retirement age. Her partner would have had a [full retirement age] good thing about $2,300 per 30 days.”

“My query is: Can the widow take discounted advantages on her personal document (so $930 much less the early profit low cost) after which at her full retirement age change to the total retirement age survivor good thing about $2,300?” she requested. “I had somebody at Social Security inform me she couldn’t do this. However language from the Social Security web site concerning widow advantages made me consider she might.”

“Sure, the widow can declare her personal decreased Social Security retirement advantages first and change to her most survivor advantages at her FRA,” I replied. Survivor profit choices are defined at this SSA web site (
• If you happen to already obtain advantages as a partner, your profit will mechanically convert to survivors advantages after the Social Security Administration receives the report of dying.
• If you happen to’re additionally eligible for retirement advantages (however haven’t utilized but), you’ve a further choice. You possibly can apply for retirement or survivors advantages now and change to the opposite (larger) profit later.
• If you happen to turned entitled to retirement advantages lower than 12 months in the past, you could possibly withdraw your retirement utility and apply for survivors advantages solely. If you happen to do this, you may reapply for the retirement advantages later when they are going to be larger.
• For these already receiving retirement advantages, you may solely apply for advantages as a widow or widower if the retirement profit you obtain is lower than the advantages you’d obtain as a survivor.

The one catch to claiming survivor advantages early is that if the widow is at present working. In that case, her Social Security advantages are topic to earnings restrictions. In 2022, she would lose $1 in advantages for each $2 earned over $19,560 if she is below full retirement age for the total 12 months. Earnings restrictions disappear at full retirement age.

That’s the state of affairs one other adviser, Ryan from outdoors of Boston, confronted with considered one of his shoppers.

“The husband died in October 2020 when his spouse was 60,” Ryan wrote in an e mail. “She was incomes greater than $90,000 a 12 months on the time of his dying. When she spoke to SSA, they stated she would obtain the $255 dying profit, however no survivor advantages.”

“The widow was denied survivor advantages as a result of she earns an excessive amount of cash,” I defined. “All Social Security advantages — together with survivor advantages — are topic to earnings restrictions if claimed earlier than full retirement age.” The $255 is a burial allowance, which isn’t topic to earnings restrictions.

In 2022, she would lose $1 in advantages for each $2 earned over $19,560. With a $90,000 wage ($90,000 – $19,560 = $70,440 in extra earnings/2 = $35,220 in forfeited advantages.) That’s greater than her annual advantages since survivor advantages claimed at 60 are value solely 71.5% of her late husband’s profit, versus 100% if she claimed survivor advantages at her full retirement age.

“She might wish to declare her survivor advantages at FRA when they’re value their most quantity and delay amassing her personal retirement till 70,” I suggested Ryan. “Retirement advantages grown by 8% per 12 months for yearly she postpones claiming them past her FRA. Survivor advantages don’t.”

Ex-spouses who had been married at the least 10 years earlier than divorcing and who’re single or who waited till age 60 or later to remarry may be eligible for survivor advantages.

A widow, widower or surviving divorced partner can not apply on-line for survivors’ advantages. They need to contact SSA at 1-800-772-1213 to request an appointment.

One other vital reality for survivors to know: If the deceased was receiving Social Security advantages, they need to return the advantages obtained for the month of dying and any later months. If funds had been obtained by direct deposit, ask the financial institution to return the cash to SSA. If the advantages had been obtained by examine, don’t money them and return them to SSA as quickly as attainable.

(Questions on new Social Security guidelines? Discover the solutions in Mary Beth Franklin’s 2021 book at

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