Ask Larry

Does a Common Law Marriage Make Benefits Available?

I have a niece to whom I will be giving your updated book as she and her common law husband of 20+ years are approaching retirement age, and they really really need to read it (I already upgraded!). My question, on their behalf, is whether Social Security recognizes their union as "spousal." I know nothing of their finances but am concerned that by them not having that marriage certificate, they may be in for a rude awakening in the not-too-distant future should something happen to one of them, either through disability or death. Thanks very much for the updated book as well as your continued advice here! Thanks, Katy

Katy, if they are not legally married, they cannot receive any benefits — spousal, widow(er)'s, divorced spousal, divorced widow(er)'s — based on each other's records. They'll need to be married a year before they can begin receive a benefit based on the other's record. Thanks, John

Category: 
Posted: 
Jul 1 2016 - 10:30am
MaxiFi software running on a laptop
Get What's Yours!
Discover tens of thousands in extra retirement dollars with Maximize My Social Security software!
  • Find your maximized strategy
  • Unlimited what-ifs
  • Step-by-Step filing instructions
  • Our software's lifetime-benefit increase for an illustrative couple earning $65K each and planning to take retirement benefits at 62.

    Results will differ based on your specific case and filing strategy.

Getting Started is Easy
Web-based software. Works on ALL browsers. No download.
$40 Annual Household License
$250 Annual Financial Advisor License