Spousal Benefits for Social Security

  • December 18, 2019
  • Elder Law Associates

Do you know how much you can expect from Social Security when you retire? What about the amount of Social Security benefits your spouse will receive after you’re gone? The rules can be a bit confusing and convoluted.

Spousal or survival benefits generally go to widows or widowers who had low or no Social Security work records of their own. According to ssa.gov, to collect spousal benefits, you need to meet three conditions:

  1.  You are at least 62 years old;
  2.  Your spouse has filed for retirement benefits; and
  3.  You must be married for a year or more; if you are divorced, you must have been married for at least 10 years and can’t be married to someone else now.

If you meet the qualifications, you can get half of your spouse’s primary insurance amount if you don’t file before your full retirement age (between ages 66 and 67, depending on the year you were born).

Your spouse’s primary insurance amount is the total of what Social Security calculates the benefits to be if your spouse were claiming benefits at full retirement age. This may be more or less than the actual amount your spouse is receiving if he or she started taking benefits before his or her full retirement age. Likewise, if you claim your spousal benefit before you reach your full retirement age, your spousal benefit could be less than a third of your spouse’s amount.

If your spouse retired early, the size of your spousal benefits is not affected as long as you wait until your full retirement age to make a claim. Unlike regular Social Security benefits, which are based on your working record and can increase if you delay your retirement, your benefits as a spouse will not increase if you wait to make a claim after your full retirement age.

If you are caring for your ex-spouse’s child who is also receiving benefits, you can receive the spouse’s benefit no matter what your age is. However, there is a limit to the amount Social Security will pay to family members (about 150-180 percent of your working spouse’s full retirement benefits). There are a number of exceptions and caveats to the above rules. To help make sense out of all of it, and to ensure you’re getting the most out of the government’s Social Security and other benefit programs, including Medicaid and the VA’s Aid and Attendance program, give Elder Law Associates a call today at 1-800-ELDERLAW and make an appointment to speak with one of our experienced attorneys.

To apply for Social Security benefits (whether it’s for yourself, your spouse, or for Medicare), you can go online, call 1-800-772-1213, or visit your local Social Security office.

Read the updated financial eligibility standards for SSI-related programs for January 2020.

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Howard S. Krooks
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Ellen S. Morris
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Howard S. Krooks
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Ellen S. Morris
Rated by Super Lawyers


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Howard S. Krooks
Rated by Super Lawyers


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10.0Howard S. Krooks
10.0Ellen Sue Morris