Social Security offers benefits to family members who depend on you, so it’s good to know who is eligible.
The Social Security rules offer opportunities to extend benefits based on your family situation. Family members who depend on you may be eligible for Social Security benefits based on your work record, so it’s good to know which benefits apply to your situation. The family rules make it possible to optimize your income during retirement and provide income to a surviving spouse when one spouse passes away.
Benefits for Spouses
Spousal benefits are among the most common available. Spouses are eligible for benefits based on their spouse’s earnings record, and for a nonworking spouse these benefits may represent significant dollars. To be eligible for spousal benefits, you must be 62 and married for at least one year. Benefits can be significant, up to 50% of the working spouse’s PIA.
Benefits for Surviving Spouses
Married couples should also be aware of survivor benefits, especially since these benefits can significantly affect lifetime earnings from Social Security. A surviving spouse is eligible based on the deceased spouse’s record. To be eligible for survivor benefits, you must be 60 years old and married for at least nine months.
A surviving spouse is eligible to receive up to the greater of what the deceased spouse would have received if still alive or 82.5% of the spouse’s PIA. Plus, a surviving spouse is able to elect widow benefits without electing retirement benefits.
If You’ve Been Divorced
Divorced persons may be eligible for benefits based on the ex-spouse’s record. However, certain rules apply. The couple must have been married for at least 10 years, and their spouse claiming the benefits must be currently unmarried. Benefits can begin at age 62.
Similar to married couples, one ex-spouse must also have filed for benefits in order for the other to file for divorced spouse benefits. But this rule only applies if the divorce was finalized within the previous two years. After two years, a divorced spouse becomes independently entitled, eliminating the requirement of the ex-spouse filing for benefits. The ex-spouse need only be eligible to file. The earnings test is also eliminated.
All of the opportunities Social Security offers to retirees and their families are great. But the many rules make it complicated for individuals to find the right opportunities for them. Finding your way to the right Social Security filing decision is not something you have to do on your own. Your financial advisor can provide valuable guidance as you navigate the rules.
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