Can I get my spouse’s Social Security when he dies?


Q. I was married to my first husband for 35 years and we divorced. When I turned 62 I started getting half of his Social Security. I am now remarried and have been for over a year. I’m now 67 and my husband is 74. How do I go about receiving his Social Security when he passes away? I’m confused!
— Planning ahead

A. You’re right in saying Social Security benefits can be very confusing.

As a married couple, when looking at Social Security, what may be helpful is to think of three buckets: your spousal benefits, your own retirement benefits and your survivor benefits, said Nicholas Scheibner, a certified financial planner with Baron Financial Group in Fair Lawn.

In the eyes of Social Security, these are all different benefits, he said.

“For people who are divorced, Social Security allows you to claim spousal benefits on the ex-spouse’s earnings record as-long-as the marriage lasted for at least 10 years,” he said. “This will last even if the ex-spouse remarries.”

However, if you remarry, spousal benefits will be assessed on the current spouse’s earnings record, he said.

In regard to survivor benefits, since your remarriage was after your 60th birthday, your survivor benefits will not be affected, Scheibner said.

If you remarry after you reach age 60, or age 50 if disabled, your remarriage will not affect your eligibility for benefits, he said.

You should visit this page from Social Security to get more details for your situation.

Also see this working paper from Social Security that discusses the potential effect that Social Security has on couples who may want to remarry, but have not, due to Social Security benefits.

Scheibner said in your case, because you are 67, and were most likely born before Jan. 1, 1954. That means you can explore a restricted application to receive spousal benefits on your current husband’s earnings record.

“Since he is 74, he is most likely currently receiving Social Security already,” he said. “If you have not filed for your own retirement benefits yet, you can delay your benefits till age 70 to maximize your own benefits.”

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This story was originally published on June 1, 2020. presents certain general financial planning principles and advice, but should never be viewed as a substitute for obtaining advice from a personal professional advisor who understands your unique individual circumstances.