What happens to Social Security if I marry my same-sex partner?

Photo: pixabay.com

Q. I am 70 years old on full Social Security and working part time. I’m thinking of marrying my same-sex partner of 26 years who is on Social Security disability. When we marry, there will be no name change, no new address, no change to any bank accounts or anything whatsoever. Will getting married change our Social Security in any way at all? And if I died first, would she be able to collect my benefit, which is larger than hers?
— Spouse-to-be

A. Congratulations on your long-term relationship.

We’re glad you’re asking about Social Security benefits ahead of time.

Before we proceed, keep in mind that your best bet is to call Social Security directly so it can advise based on your specific records.

Generally, here’s how it works.

The Social Security Administration recognizes same-sex marriages in all states as well as some non-marital legal relationships, such as some civil unions and domestic partnerships, while determining entitlement to Social Security benefits, Medicare entitlement and Supplemental Security Income, said Deva Panambur, a fee-only planner with Sarsi, LLC in West New York and an adjunct professor of personal finance at Montclair State University.

He said when you get married, your spouse will continue getting her own disability benefits.

“Normally, when a person reaches full retirement age — 66 to 67 years old depending on the date of birth — disability benefits automatically convert to retirement benefits, but the amount remains the same,” Panambur said. “After one continuous year of marriage, as a spouse, she will be eligible for spousal benefits equal to 50% of your full retirement amount if she applies at full retirement age.”

She will be paid the higher of the two amounts as she can’t get benefits both on her own earnings record and the spousal benefit, he said.

If you were to die, she will be eligible for survivor’s benefits that could be up to 100% of your benefit if she has reached full retirement age, or less if she is younger than that, he said.

“If she is younger than full retirement age when you die, she can delay survivor’s benefits and receive benefits based on her own earnings record so that she is able to collect the maximum survivor benefit at full retirement age,” he said.

Email your questions to .

This story was originally published on June 3, 2022.

NJMoneyHelp.com 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.