My wife is on disability. What happens to her Social Security when I die?


Q. My wife collects Social Security disability (SSDI) and I am fully retired. If I should pass away, would my wife collect half my benefit in addition to her disability or would she just get switched to my higher benefit?
— Married

A. We’re glad to see you’re planning ahead.

Social Security benefits can be confusing.

Your spouse would continue to collect her full SSDI benefit until she reaches full retirement age or is no longer physically disabled, said Steven Gallo, a certified public accountant and personal financial specialist with U.S. Financial Services in Fairfield.

“If you were to pass, she is entitled to collect the higher of your monthly benefit or her SSDI benefit, assuming she meets all the other requirements for a widow’s benefit,” he said.

He offered this example: If she was currently receiving a $1,200 monthly SSDI benefit and you were getting $1,800 per month from Social Security, when you die, she would continue to receive her $1,200 SSDI payment plus an additional $600 Social Security payment as a widow’s benefit. This puts the total at the higher of her SSDI or your full Social Security benefit, which would be your $1,800.

“Your spouse will continue to get both benefits but the total of the two will never exceed the higher of her SSDI benefit or your Social Security benefit,” he said. “Upon your wife reaching full retirement age her SSDI will be converted to a Social Security benefit but the amount will stay the same.”

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This story was originally published on Sept. 5, 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.