What Happens To My Surviving Spouse If I Die?

Aug 7 2016 - 11:00am

I am turning 66 in Feb, 2017 and have a terminal disease. Currently I am in remission and doing great but the odds are not in my favor as my disease is a particularly aggressive one. What happens to my spouse ( who is 8 years younger than me) if I die before I reach the age of 70? Our retirement plan had always assumed that we would wait until I was 70 before we started to receive social security benefits.


I'm sorry to hear about your illness. I hope it stays in remission.

If you die first, your wife would be potentially eligible for widow's benefits on your account. If you die before reaching full retirement age (FRA), or you start drawing your benefits at FRA, her unreduced widow's benefit would be equal to your full retirement age benefit amount (PIA). If you die after reaching full retirement age and without having applied for benefits, her unreduced widow's benefit would be equal to your PIA plus the delayed retirement credits (DRC) you would have earned up until the month of your death. DRCs amount to 2/3rds of 1% per month, or 8% per year, and are added for each month from age 66 to 70 that you could have drawn benefits but chose not to. So, for example, if you died in the month you reach age 68 without having filed for benefits, your wife's unreduced widow's benefit would be equal to 116% of your PIA.

Reduced widow's benefits can be payable starting as early as age 60, or age 50 if the widow is disabled. The rate payable at age 60 would be 71.5% of the widow's unreduced rate.

If your wife is also eligible for benefits on her own work record, she may have some filing options in the event of your death. A widow who is also eligible for benefits on their own record can file for reduced benefits on one record without reducing their potential benefit rate on the other account. She would likely benefit from the maximization software available on this website in that event.

Best, Jerry