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Valued Social Butterfly
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Re: Social Security Spousal to Survivor benefit

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@lindy444 wrote:

Thanks for your reply.  But because I was born in 1958, my original application for benefits (Spousal or my own) will be considered "deemed" filing.   Because of my age, and the recent change in the law, I can't file for Spousal and wait until I turn 70, and then switch to my own, to max out my benefits. So I want to understand exactly what I would be limited to, before I decide when to file.  Thanks!  But it's good to know that the SSA offices are so helpful and well-informed.


1958 - You, YOUNG woman - Guess I don't think about people your age getting close to SS.

Now I am really feeling old ! Woman Wink

 

You are right - since you were born ON or AFTER January 2, 1954 - the deemed filing rule will apply to you.

 

When you get ready to file for benefits at any age - early, FRA, or even at 70 - when you file, all your applicable benefits will be reviewed - your own, spousal and you will receive the one that is the greater.

 

Except for COLA adjustments, there it will stay until you are qualified for and ready to file for Survivors benefits - the timing of your filing for Survivors benefits is your decision. 

 

Sorry, I just have to begin to realize that people who were born in 1954 are fast reaching the age of retirement. 

* * * * It's Always Something . . . Roseanne Roseannadanna
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Re: Social Security Spousal to Survivor benefit

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Message 2 of 11

Thanks!  That's good to know that the SSA offices are so helpful and well-informed.

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Re: Social Security Spousal to Survivor benefit

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Message 3 of 11

Thanks for your reply.  But because I was born in 1958, my original application for benefits (Spousal or my own) will be considered "deemed" filing.   Because of my age, and the recent change in the law, I can't file for Spousal and wait until I turn 70, and then switch to my own, to max out my benefits. So I want to understand exactly what I would be limited to, before I decide when to file.  Thanks!  But it's good to know that the SSA offices are so helpful and well-informed.

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Re: Social Security Spousal to Survivor benefit

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Message 4 of 11
@lindy444 wrote:

Thanks for the response. I see that I wasn’t really clear in my original question. I am 61  so my FRA is 66+8 months (for Spousal) and 66+4 months (for Survivor). Neither of us has dependents or is disabled. I will most likely wait until 65 to claim my Spousal benefit (knowing that it will be reduced to 58.3% of my husband’s full benefit). But I was using a claim date of 62 as a scenario, to understand the ruling.

To rephrase my main question (which I think you answered): If I claim a reduced Spousal benefit early at 62, will I be locked into that same reduction in Survivor benefits in the future, if my husband dies after I reach my FRA? Or will I be considered as starting my Survivor benefit  claim after my FRA, and therefore receive the same amount that he is currently receiving?

 

If I claim Spousal at 62 and he were to die a year later, would I have the option of switching back to my own lower and reduced benefit, and then waiting until I reached my FRA (of 66+4 months for Survivor) to claim the benefit that he is currently receiving? (He also claimed a couple of years early so it wouldn’t be the maximum that we could have received, had he waited to claim.) In other words, would I be automatically switched from Spousal to Survivor, or would I have the option of waiting to claim those Survivor benefits? And in that case, if my husband were to die early, could I switch from Spousal back to my own benefits?

Thank you,


Yes, if your husband died before your FRA, you would have the option of what benefit to file for - at that time, the Spousal benefit would stop and you would either make application for your own benefit (early - reduced) or Survivors benefit (early - reduced).  Neither will change after that except for any annual COLA which are applied.  OR just stop benefits of any type all together.

 

It would be best to run the numbers because even if you took an early Survivors benefit at 60, you would get approximately 70% of his benefit - So it all depends on what you want to do based on how much lower your benefit might be -

 

Another scenario you might want to consider depending on how your own benefit might grow until age 70 is to take the Spousal, switch to Survivors upon his death and let your own benefit grow until you reach 70 and get the delayed retirement credit on your own benefit. 

 

If you don't work anymore after you start receiving either Spousal or Survivors benefits, the only way your own benefits will grown substantially is by earning the delayed retirement credit which you earn on your own benefit IF you wait until 70 years old to file for your own benefit.- Unless more work and contributing is done.

 

The optimum time when your own benefit will be the highest, unless you keep working, is when your OWN benefit has grown as far as it is going to grow - that is, when you reach 70 years old. 

 

When you have options, the numbers of each methods has to be evaluated and you must be the judge of which way is best for you at the time.

 

 

 

 

* * * * It's Always Something . . . Roseanne Roseannadanna
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Re: Social Security Spousal to Survivor benefit

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Message 5 of 11

 Lindy wrote-I can imagine that not many people would be aware of this option, and might be switched to a reduced Survivor benefit without having a say in the matter, especially during a time of grief. I haven’t been into an SSA office yet but have heard that you don’t always get the full or correct answers to “what-if” questions.------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Our local SSA office  gave my wife and I many "What If "options .  Most offices go out of their way to maximize payments to recipients. It never hurts to list your own "What Ifs" which would include work history,Age of both spouses,health history,years of payments into SS,whether it be better to delay payments to maximize  future payments etc.

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Re: Social Security Spousal to Survivor benefit

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Message 6 of 11

Thank you FredSmif! That is extremely interesting and gets right to the jist of my query. I do have a work record and could claim my own benefit (albeit small) if this scenario were to arise. But it sounds like I would have to be on top of the situation, ready to submit my Certificate of Election form and to request that I be placed in S-9 suspension. I can imagine that not many people would be aware of this option, and might be switched to a reduced Survivor benefit without having a say in the matter, especially during a time of grief. I haven’t been into an SSA office yet but have heard that you don’t always get the full or correct answers to “what-if” questions. So it seems imperative to be aware of all options up front. Thanks for your help.

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Re: Social Security Spousal to Survivor benefit

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Message 7 of 11

lindy, I've had my eye on your thread as it raises questions similar to my own. I'd actually done a lot of investigation into this a couple years ago. I find Gail's responses to be generally authoritative and correct but I'd like to add my own view.

Your particular issue... the question is clear and simple but perhaps the answer from the SSA is not.

 

I often go to Professor Larry Kotlikoff as an expert on Social Security (professor at Boston University). He has had Q&A segments on so many television shows/networks, and columns in so many magazines, including AARP. He also publishes a commercial software on SS. In my view he quite an expert. He's collected all his written Q&A works as "Ask Larry" at https://maximizemysocialsecurity.com/ask-larry

An Ask Larry situation addresses yours:
https://maximizemysocialsecurity.com/will-my-wifes-widows-benefits-be-reduced-if-she-takes-reduced-s...

He replies:

 

"If you die first, your wife's widow's rate will be calculated based on her age at the time of your death. So, even if she takes a reduced spousal benefit at age 62, her widow's rate will be unreduced if you die after she reaches her full retirement age (FRA).

 

"If your wife does take her reduced spousal benefits and you die before she reaches FRA, her benefits will automatically convert to a reduced widow's rate effective with the month of your death (https://secure.ssa.gov/apps10/poms.nsf/lnx/0300207005). To the best of my knowledge, she could not defer receipt of widow's benefits until FRA in that scenario unless she is insured for benefits on her own work record."

Some further reading of Ask Larry, and getting deep into some of the SS Admin's "Program Operations Manual System (POMS)" I believe indicates that as a survivor, below your FRA, you can leave your widow's benefit until your FRA but you can maintain your own SS benefit from your own working career. However, a form needs to be filed with the SSA.

This document addresses the issue:  https://secure.ssa.gov/apps10/poms.nsf/lnx/0300207005

 

See "step C", third bullet point:

 

• Age 62 through the month before FRA when the NH dies. An application is not necessary. If the spouse is also entitled to a retirement insurance benefit (RIB) or disability insurance benefit (DIB), a Certificate of Election (SSA-4111) is required to receive reduced benefits. Pending receipt of the certificate, the spouse is converted and placed in suspense (S-9) status so that he/she can be identified at FRA. If the widow(er) does not elect reduced benefits, he/she will be identified at FRA and awarded benefits.

 

In my case I wanted my wife/widow's early spousal benefit to cease upon my death if she had not attained her FRA (I cover this eventuality with large amount of retirement nest egg plus term life insurance ...I am 66 and she is 55). But for our case she has no work record of her own so she would not meet that bullet point and as, Larry says, there seems to be no way to suspend the benefit. So I have to work around that in my planning.

 

 

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Re: Social Security Spousal to Survivor benefit

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Message 8 of 11

Thanks for the response. I see that I wasn’t really clear in my original question. I am 61  so my FRA is 66+8 months (for Spousal) and 66+4 months (for Survivor). Neither of us has dependents or is disabled. I will most likely wait until 65 to claim my Spousal benefit (knowing that it will be reduced to 58.3% of my husband’s full benefit). But I was using a claim date of 62 as a scenario, to understand the ruling.

To rephrase my main question (which I think you answered): If I claim a reduced Spousal benefit early at 62, will I be locked into that same reduction in Survivor benefits in the future, if my husband dies after I reach my FRA? Or will I be considered as starting my Survivor benefit  claim after my FRA, and therefore receive the same amount that he is currently receiving?

 

If I claim Spousal at 62 and he were to die a year later, would I have the option of switching back to my own lower and reduced benefit, and then waiting until I reached my FRA (of 66+4 months for Survivor) to claim the benefit that he is currently receiving? (He also claimed a couple of years early so it wouldn’t be the maximum that we could have received, had he waited to claim.) In other words, would I be automatically switched from Spousal to Survivor, or would I have the option of waiting to claim those Survivor benefits? And in that case, if my husband were to die early, could I switch from Spousal back to my own benefits?

Thank you,

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Re: Social Security Spousal to Survivor benefit

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Message 9 of 11

@lindy444 wrote:
I am 61 and my husband is 70 and already claiming his ss benefit. I was the lower earning spouse so will end up claiming a Spousal benefit. If I were to start claiming a reduced Spousal benefit at 62, and then if my husband were to die a few years later (after I reached my FRA) would my Survivor benefits be forever reduced because I had started claiming some sort of ss benefit early, before my FRA?

You will get a reduced spousal benefit if you start drawing this benefit before YOUR FRA - The spousal benefit is 50% of his benefit (not counting any delayed retirement credits, if that is the case.  So you will get about 37.5% of his retirement benefit for your spousal benefit if you start drawing at 62.

 

IF you are YOUR FRA when he dies, then you will receive the (his) full benefit as his surviving spouse, including any delayed retirement credit he may have earned.  If you are younger than YOUR FRA at the time of his death, the Surviving Spouse benefit will be reduced unless there are extenuating circumstances. Either way, your Spousal benefit will stop and you will receive only his benefit as his Surviving Spouse.

 

 * There are several other special things that might also come into play before reaching your FRA age as to the (full) amount you might receive as the Surviving Spouse.

  • any dependents between you which you may still be caring for
  • if you become disabled as defined by SSA before turning your FRA

Social Security: Benefits Planne: Survivors

 

It is hard to give people an exact answer to a rather simple SS question, since there are so many other details that might be left out of the question - and those details make a big difference in the complete answer.

 

* * * * It's Always Something . . . Roseanne Roseannadanna
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Re: Social Security Spousal to Survivor benefit

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Message 10 of 11

You should be able to claim his full benefit if he dies if you been married at least 10 years. Might be reduced if you haven`t  reached FRA. Best bet-Check with SS administration before you reach 62 for options.They might advise to wait as long as possible to maximize payments.

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