How Should I Take My Deceased Husband’s Social Security?

deceased husband's social security
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You are newly widowed and are concerned about your rights to your deceased husband’s Social Security benefits.

And rightfully so.

It is easy to make mistakes when it comes to Social Security.

When to take Social Security benefits is a major decision that has major consequences for not only the worker but his spouse.

According to a recent article from NASDAQ titled “If You Love Your Spouse, Don’t Make This Social Security Mistake,” there are a few common mistakes people make that end up costing their loved ones, advises the recent article.

deceased husband's social security
Prudent planning now can maximize a deceased husband’s Social Security later.

The most common mistake?

Deciding when to start taking Social Security benefits.

By starting to claim benefits at age 62, you will receive a reduced amount compared to what you would have received at your full retirement age.

If you can wait until age 70 to claim Social Security, you and your spouse will benefit from the delayed retirement credits.

Most retirees base their benefit decision on how long they expect to live and their financial needs.

People who expect to live a long time will get more money if they can wait until age 70, when their monthly benefits will be larger.

People who do not expect to live very long past retirement, usually take their benefits early.

So, how lucky do you feel (tip of the hat to Dirty Harry/Clint Eastwood)?

Take a look at your family history to see how long your ancestors tend to live in retirement.

Remember: you cannot fool the gene pool.

In addition, when you decide to take your benefits has an impact on your surviving spouse.

When both members have worked and earned their benefits, it is not that big of a deal.

On the other hand, for a spouse who does not have a work history of her own or whose earnings are significantly lower, this can have a big financial impact.

The issue?

Survivor benefits.

You are entitled to receive a survivor benefit from your deceased husband’s social security when he dies, and that benefit is based on his work history.

Consequently, if your husband claimed benefits earlier than full retirement age, there will be a reduction in your survivor benefit.

Consider this example.

Husband, age 62, would receive a retirement benefit of $1,500, if he retired at age 66 and 8 months.

Assume he has a terminal illness and will not live more than a few more months.

His wife is also 62.

What should this couple do?

Some folks in this situation would start taking their Social Security benefits immediately.

The reduced monthly payment would be $1,075.

While it is less than the $1,500, but it is still better than nothing.


The issue is that the surviving spouse in our example would only be eligible to receive $1,075 per month going forward, but only if she waited until full retirement age.

If she made a claim before full retirement age, then her monthly benefit would be $884.

If the terminally ill husband in our example chose not to claim Social Security at all, the surviving spouse would be entitled to a survivor benefit of $1,500, again if she waited until full retirement age.

That $350 difference may not look big on paper, but when there is only one income, it adds up.

Teaching point?

Waiting to take benefits could make all the difference in the quality of life your spouse enjoys for the rest of her life.

Reference: NASDAQ (Nov. 14, 2020) “If You Love Your Spouse, Don’t Make This Social Security Mistake”

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