What Does My Wife Need To Do To Maximize Her Benefits When I Die?

Feb 11 2019 - 9:12am

Hi Larry & Jerry-

My wife began taking her benefits when she reached her FRA of 66. I am 18 months older than she is; once she reached her FRA and filed for her benefits I began taking my spousal benefit on her account.

As a result, I delayed taking my own benefit until I was 70 years old. Once I began taking my delayed retirement benefit she began to take her spousal benefit on my account which, when combined with her benefit, took her monthly benefit payment up to 1/2 of my PIA.

My question is what happens when I die? I do not understand all the nuances of the benefits which "widows" are eligible to receive. If she is sure to maximize her benefit how much is she eligible to receive "all in?"? And, importantly, what does she need to do to assure she "gets what's coming to her?" What pitfalls must she avoid?

Thanks, as always!


It sounds like you and your wife have already done all that you can to maximize your benefits. If you die first, your wife's spousal benefit will automatically convert to a widow's benefit which will bring her combined benefit rate up to your full benefit amount (inclusive of the delayed retirement credits you earned by waiting until age 70 to start drawing your benefits). Your wife wouldn't need to do anything in that event other than notify Social Security of your date of death.

Your wife would also likely be due a one-time death benefit of $255 in the event of your death, but that too would be paid automatically since she's drawing spousal benefits on your record. However, if your wife dies first you would need to file an application with Social Security in order to be paid the $255 death benefit.

Best, Jerry