Dad died. Can mom get his higher Social Security benefit?


Q. My mother is a widow who started collecting her Social Security benefits at age 67. However, my father — her late husband — was already collecting benefits, which were a higher amount than what mom receives. How can my mom switch over to receive the higher benefit as a widow?
— Trying to help

A. We’re sorry to hear about your dad.

When someone’s spouse dies, they may be eligible for higher Social Security benefits.

A surviving spouse of someone who was collecting benefits are eligible to receive the higher of their benefit or the deceased spouse’s benefit, said Michael Cocco, a certified financial planner with Beacon Wealth Partners in Nutley.

In this case, if you are saying your father’s benefit was more than what your mom is receiving today based on her own earnings record, then yes, she should be able to switch over to start to collect your father’s higher benefit, Cocco said.

To do this, she can call the Social Security Administration at (800) 772-1213 or visit a local Social Security office, he said.

“Offices were closed for two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but this spring, they reopened to the public, and it would be wise to schedule an appointment so you don’t have to wait in the waiting room for a long time,” he said. “What your mom is requesting is very common, so it should be a relatively straightforward request for the Social Security office to assist her.”

You can find the closest location to you on the Social Security website.

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This story was originally published on Aug. 25, 2022. 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.