Can A Person Receiving Spousal Benefits Get Widow's Benefits If Their Spouse Dies?

Jan 4 2017 - 5:45am

I understand totally the grandfathered spousal benefit, but what happens if there's a death on either side? Can the restricted spousal benefit person then file for widow/survivor's benefit if spouse dies before he gets to 70 and let his SS still grow till 70 and then get his full retirement benefit? On the reverse, can the spouse, who filed early so her husband can get file the restricted spousal benefits, who died at 68, maximize on widow's benefits by waiting 2 years to claim survivor's benefits when husband would have reached 70, or does his maximum amount stop at 68 since he died at 68????


Yes, a spouse who filed a restricted application for spousal benefits at full retirement age would convert to widow(er)'s benefits if their spouse dies. And, if that happens before they reach age 70, they could still let their own benefit rate grow until age 70.

Widow(er)'s benefits reach their maximum rate when the widow(er) attains full retirement age. And, If the deceased spouse had not yet filed on their own record and dies after reaching full retirement age (FRA), the benefit rate for their widow(er) would include any delayed retirement credits (DRC) that the deceased spouse had accrued up until the month of their death.

For example, say Jack files for retirement benefits at age 62 so that his wife Jill, who is 4 years older, can receive just spousal benefits at age 66. Jack's full retirement age benefit rate is $1000, but he receives $750 per month since he started at age 62. Jill receives half of his full rate, or $500, since she's starting at FRA. Jill's own full retirement age benefit rate is $2000, but she plans to wait until age 70 to start drawing on her own record. However, Jill dies in the month of her 68th birthday. Jack's widower's benefit rate on Jill's account would include the 16% of DRCs that Jill had accrued up until her death, but never any more than that.

Jack would then have the option of starting reduced widower's benefits at age 64, or waiting until his full retirement age to start them. If he chose to wait until full retirement age, he'd receive just his own rate of $750 until FRA. Then, when he files for his excess widower's benefit at FRA, his total benefit rate would increase to $2,320, which is the amount Jill would have received had she started taking her benefits effective with the month that she died (i.e. $2000 x 1.16).

Best, Jerry