How Are Widow(er)'s Benefits Calculated If A Person Dies Before Age 70?

Aug 1 2016 - 1:00pm

If a husband waits to claim SS until he is 70, so that his wife will get a larger SS benefit (I guess the survivor benefit), but he dies before he gets to 70, how is his wife's benefit calculated?

Hi,

Unreduced widow(er)'s benefits are paid at a rate of 100% of the deceased's full retirement age benefit (PIA), plus any delayed retirement credits the deceased earns, or would have earned.

If the deceased started receiving benefits at full retirement age (FRA), or dies at FRA or earlier without having applied for reduced benefits, his or her widow(er) would be eligible for 100% of their PIA if the widow(er) starts drawing survivor benefits at FRA or later. However, if the widow(er) is also entitled to benefits on their own account, they would only receive a total of the higher of the two benefits.

On the other hand, if the deceased waits past FRA to start drawing benefits, or they don't take benefits prior to their death, the widow(er) is credited with any delayed retirement credits (DRC) that the deceased earned or would have earned. DRCs are credited at a rate of 8% per year, so if the deceased waited one year past age FRA to start drawing, or they die one year after reaching FRA without having filed for their benefit, the unreduced widow(er)'s benefit would be calculated at a rate of 108% of the deceased's PIA. Or, 116% of the PIA if the deceased dies, or waited to start drawing, 2 years past FRA. And, so on. In order for the widow(er) to be eligible for the maximum rate of 132% of the deceased's PIA, the deceased must live until at least age 70, and not start drawing before then. Again though, if the widow(er) is also entitled to benefits on their own account, they would only receive a total of the higher of the two benefits.

Best, Jerry