Social Security: Survivor Benefits Question

by Wendy, Retirement Enthusiast/Coach

I've been in the retirement/senior field for twenty-five years when employed and over ten years retired -- and guess what?

This is NEWS to me!

A friend, Donna, called and asked what her sister-in-law would get from Social Security now that her husband had died. She is in her 70s, which is important because the answer is different, if not full retirement age.

Social Security Site: "For those already receiving retirement benefits, you can only apply for benefits as a surviving spouse if the retirement benefit you receive is less than the benefits you would receive as a survivor."

There are three possible answers:

1) Remain as is, no change
2) Get an increase in SS payment
3) Get his payment amount now instead of your lower amount

I have worked with thousands of retirees, yet I have never had anyone ask this question! Moreover, I never heard this issue talked about in Social Security talks at conferences.

As I researched it more, it appears if you don't know about this and don't apply, you remain as is. This is my mothers issue right now, we never knew to ask for an increased benefit when her husband (my stepdad) died 1.5 years ago!

You must apply for an increased Social Security payment if you get less than your spouse and they die.

From SS site:

"These are examples of the benefits that survivors may receive:

Surviving spouse, full retirement age or older — 100% of the deceased worker's benefit amount.

Surviving spouse, age 60 — through full retirement age — 71½ to 99% of the deceased worker's basic amount."

Now, if I read other parts of the SS site, it sounds like you get the full benefit OR you do not, only a percentage of it. Unfortunately, I can't seem to make heads or tails of this question, so:

I am applying for my mother to get an increased benefit. We shall see what happens. Did we wait too long? I don't know!

The reason I am posting this is for your input.

  • Did you already know Social Security increases, in some manner, if your benefit is lesser, and the spouse dies first?

  • Have you or your family members applied for this benefit?

  • Do you know the answer to full benefit or partial benefit?

    Just very curious!

    I will keep you updated!

  • Comments for Social Security: Survivor Benefits Question

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    My Thoughts
    by: Wendy

    Sandra in Michigan (hey, I am here too!)

    Please write me privately (About Wendy==> Contact Wendy). I am curious who told you this and want to know more about your circumstances.

    I am fairly sure you can't lose your SS, but wonder what your story is... even millionaires get SS. You earn the benefit and pay part as you are employed and get paid over your lifetime afterward (assuming SS stays out there)!

    Social Security and Taxes
    by: Sandra/michigan

    There are so many things that I don’t know or understand about Social Security. I thought SS benefits were non taxable and lifelong even though it was considered income. While getting my taxes done last month, I found out that if my pension income and annuities continue to increase, I might lose my SS altogether. After that surprise, I learned Michigan taxes military survivor’s disability income since I’m receiving too much money in retirement - although stated on the website," Michigan will not tax military survivor benefits that are not included in Adjusted Gross Income (AGI)". The VA does not issue a 1099-R for this benefit.

    I thought I was structuring a financially strong retirement by claiming all the benefits I was entitled to. Thank you for investigating issues regarding SS that the common retiree may not be aware of.

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