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How Social Safety advantages change after divorce, demise



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The principles round claiming Social Security benefits are stuffed with caveats and nuances.

Amongst them is a worthwhile quirk for sure divorced spouses: In lots of circumstances, the month-to-month Social Safety profit you possibly can declare based mostly on a former partner’s work historical past primarily doubles when they die.


“Your ex is price twice as a lot lifeless than alive,” stated Mary Beth Franklin, an authorized monetary planner and Social Safety skilled. She spoke at Monetary Advisor Journal’s current Put money into Girls convention in West Palm Seashore, Florida.

Retirement Planning: How to Maximize Your Financial Future

The identical idea may also apply for married {couples}. The calculus assumes the primary partner to die had a bigger Social Safety retirement profit than the survivor.

Girls in heterosexual {couples} are inclined to derive essentially the most worth from these Social Safety guidelines, since they have a tendency to reside longer and retire with much less wealth, monetary planners stated.


“Social Safety is without doubt one of the hottest advantages the federal government affords,” stated Natalie Colley, a CFP based mostly in New York and senior lead advisor at Francis Monetary. “And it is a lifetime annuity. It is top-of-the-line [financial] protections anybody has in opposition to previous age.”

Social Safety guidelines for married, divorced spouses

The federal authorities determines Social Safety advantages based mostly on age and earnings historical past.


Married {couples} are eligible for spousal advantages. The decrease earner can receive a profit price as much as 50% of the profit to which their partner is entitled at full retirement age.

This is an example from the Social Safety Administration: Sandy qualifies for a month-to-month retirement good thing about $1,000 based mostly on her earnings file. She additionally qualifies for a partner’s good thing about $1,250. At Sandy’s full retirement age, she’d get her $1,000 profit plus $250 from her partner’s profit, for a complete of $1,250.


The method for divorced couples — when each people are alive — is analogous: An ex is entitled to as much as half of their ex-spouse’s Social Safety profit.

Extra from Girls and Wealth:

This is a have a look at extra protection in CNBC’s Girls & Wealth particular report, the place we discover methods ladies can enhance revenue, save and profit from alternatives.


The claimant must be at the least 62 years previous and should not be remarried. (Your ex should additionally qualify for advantages, which means they’d usually even be over 62.) To qualify, the couple will need to have been married for 10 or extra years earlier than divorcing.  

“There have to be at the least a decade between ‘I do’ and ‘I do not,’” Franklin stated.


Moreover, the couple have to be divorced for at the least two steady years.

Claiming advantages based mostly on an ex-spouse’s earnings file does not influence or scale back that former partner’s advantages, Colley stated. The ex is rarely even notified by the Social Safety Administration a few declare, she added.


She recommends retaining an ex-spouse’s Social Safety quantity, in addition to the couple’s marriage and divorce certificates, to streamline a future declare.

Then, “it is actually a really seamless course of,” Colley stated.


What occurs to advantages when an ex-spouse dies

When a former partner dies, the profit method modifications.

Surviving ex-spouses (and widows) are eligible for as much as 100% of the decedent’s profit, fairly than the prior 50% most. These are often known as “survivors benefits.”


Remarrying after reaching age 60 will not have an effect on your eligibility for survivors advantages, according to the SSA. Remarrying sooner than that disqualifies eligibility.

Survivors can declare these advantages as early as age 60 — two years sooner than conventional retirement advantages, Colley stated. Nonetheless, such advantages can be decrease than if one waited at the least till full retirement age, she stated.


Social Safety enacted this security web for survivors as a result of ladies historically hadn’t labored and as an alternative stayed dwelling to handle their youngsters, and due to this fact had much less retirement safety within the occasion of a partner’s demise, Colley stated.

“We’re seeing ladies in divorce at this time who’re of the era the place they simply did not work their total life,” she stated.

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