Can I Get Survivor Advantages if Our Marriage File Was Destroyed?

Pricey Penny,

I’m a widow. My husband was 53 when he died. He was accumulating Social Safety incapacity for about two years previous his demise.

I’m nearing retirement age and was planning on taking his Social Safety after I attain my full retirement age, after which switching to mine after I flip 70.

Is this feature nonetheless out there? Would I be eligible for 100% of his? After I referred to as Social Safety, the girl stated, “It will likely be a shock.” Shock, my foot! I must know.

I additionally might have a tough time proving we had been married. Our wedding ceremony license burned up in a latest home fireplace. We had been married within the Bahamas, and I doubt they preserve data. I may be OK in that I had the wedding license on the time of his demise and used it to gather the one-time $255 demise profit, so it could be within the system. That could be my solely salvation. 

I’ve obtained so many conflicting solutions relating to having the ability to swap from his to mine after I’m 70.


Pricey S.,

I don’t suppose you’re in for any large surprises. So long as you’re eligible in your late husband’s survivor advantages, you’re allowed to start out survivor advantages, then swap to your individual greater Social Safety profit in a while. And even with out the precise marriage license, you must be capable of show that you simply had been married.

Let’s begin with the primary subject, although. I believe that the confusion you’re working into stems from the truth that the foundations have modified for spousal advantages, that are paid to spouses and ex-spouses based mostly on the work report of somebody who’s nonetheless alive.

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Prior to now, married {couples} typically used what was referred to as a restricted software. One partner would file an software for spousal advantages solely as early as age 62. Then, they’d swap to their very own retirement in a while. This was a well-liked solution to maximize advantages as a result of the longer you wait to take Social Safety, the larger your checks will probably be.

However a 2015 regulation ended this technique for anybody born after Jan. 1, 1954. Nonetheless, there are exceptions for spouses who qualify for incapacity advantages or are caring for a kid who’s youthful than 16 or disabled.

The necessary factor to know is that this alteration doesn’t apply to survivor advantages. You possibly can declare survivor advantages as early as 60 or age 50 in case you’re disabled. Then you possibly can swap over to your individual profit as early as 62 or as late as age 70 if you’d like the utmost profit.

Not like retirement advantages, survivor advantages cap out at full retirement age. You’ll get 100% of your late husband’s profit at that time. So that you’ll get the most important Social Safety checks doable by doing what you’re planning.

If you happen to don’t need to take my phrase for it, right here’s what Social Safety’s web site says: If you happen to’re eligible for each survivor and retirement advantages however haven’t but utilized, “You possibly can apply for retirement or survivors advantages now and swap to the opposite (greater) profit later.” For all the foundations on this matter, try Social Safety’s publication “If You Are the Survivor,” which is out there on-line.

You also needs to be capable of doc that your marriage did, in reality, exist even when it’s important to soar by a couple of extra hoops. I don’t know if Social Safety would be capable of use the one-time $255 cost you obtained when your husband died as proof. However within the absence of a wedding certificates, you should still be capable of get hold of a licensed copy of your marriage paperwork by contacting the U.S. embassy within the Bahamas.

When official paperwork aren’t out there, Social Safety may even settle for different proof, like witness statements or pictures from the ceremony. You in all probability have proof of the home fireplace that you could possibly use as proof of why you don’t have the unique marriage certificates. I’m guessing you’ve different paperwork, like tax returns or property data in case you owned a house collectively, that you could possibly use as extra proof.

Typically when you’ve an advanced scenario, you received’t get good data by calling Social Safety. There are such a lot of difficult guidelines, and it’s inconceivable for one individual to have the proper reply for each situation. However you possibly can typically discover the knowledge you want on Social Safety’s web site, ssa.gov.

Attempt to discover as a lot data as doable earlier than you name. If what you’re advised conflicts with official Social Safety data, level out the discrepancy. Ask them to refer you to the precise rule they’re citing. It could even be useful to take notes throughout every cellphone name. Doc the time and date of the cellphone name and the identify of the worker you communicate with.

Coping with any paperwork generally is a headache. But it surely appears like you’ve a wise technique for maximizing your Social Safety. If you happen to do a little bit of prep work, I don’t suppose you’ll encounter any main hurdles in claiming the advantages you’re entitled to.

Robin Hartill is a licensed monetary planner and a senior author at The Penny Hoarder. Ship your difficult cash inquiries to [email protected].

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