Can I Still Get Survivor Benefits If I Don't Have A Death Certificate?

Jan 6 2018 - 7:09am

I was married for over 10 years and my ex husband died this past year at the age of 62 . I have not remarried and I will soon turn 58.He did not remarry. My understanding from reading your book "Get What's yours......", as long as I remain single I can collect on his social security at age 60, I have divorce papers but do not have access to his death certificate, so can I still collect? I assume I would get his full benefits, but how can I determine what that would be? I assume that would be considered income (I work full time). I want to make sure collecting on his will not effect my social security, whenever I decide to collect (between the age of 67-72).

Hi,

Social Security probably already has adequate proof of your ex's death in their records, so it's unlikely that you'll need to submit proof of death. If required, though, you could get a death certificate from the vital records office of the state in which your ex's death occurred.

You won't get your ex's full benefit rate if you start drawing at age 60. What you would receive instead is 71.5% of his full retirement age rate (PIA). Probably the only way to find out how much your rate would be to get it from Social Security.

Your best filing strategy is likely one of the following:
1) File for surviving divorced spousal benefits at age 60 or as soon as your earnings will permit benefits to be paid, then switch to your own record at age 70; or,
2) File for retirement benefits on your own record at age 62 or as soon as your earnings will permit benefits to be paid, then file for unreduced survivor benefits at your full retirement age (FRA). However, if your ex received reduced retirement benefits before his death, you wouldn't be eligible for his full retirement age rate and it would likely be advantageous for you to file on his record prior to your FRA.

Generally, it's best to start out drawing the lower benefit rate and switch to the higher rate when it reaches its maximum point. Our maximization software can sort out your options and help you determine which filing strategy would best in your case.

Best, Jerry