Will I Be Eligible For Any Benefits On My Deceased Wife's Record?

Apr 17 2017 - 6:59am

My wife just passed away. She was receiving permanent disability for near 17yrs at the time of her death. She was 59 and I am 55 working full time. I gross near six figures in income per year. Am I or will I be eligible for any of her benefits as long as I am working? Will I be eligible for any of her benefits after I retire, rather it be full age or early?

Hi,

I'm sorry for your loss.

You should qualify for a one-time death benefit of $255 right now. You can apply by calling 1-800-772-1213, or by contacting your nearest Social Security office (https://secure.ssa.gov/ICON/main.jsp).

Monthly widower's benefits can be paid at a reduced rate as early as age 60, or even at age 50 for disabled widow(er)s, but you likely wouldn't be able to receive any benefits until at least the year that you reach full retirement age (FRA) if you continue to work at your current earnings level. That's because of the Social Security earnings test (https://www.ssa.gov/planners/retire/whileworking2.html).

Your best strategy is likely one of the following:
1) File for widower's benefits at age 60 or as soon after that as your earnings will permit payment of benefits, then switch to retirement benefits on your own record at age 70; or,
2) File for reduced retirement benefits on your own record at age 62 or as soon after that as your earnings will permit payment of benefits, then file for unreduced widower's benefits at FRA.

The maximization software available on this website can help you determine which of these strategies is best in your case, as well as the optimal time for you to apply for each type of benefit.

Best, Jerry