Ask Larry

When Should I Collect Widows Benefits From My Deceased First Spouse?

Hi Larry,
William was 62 in August 2015. Becky, my wife, is presently receiving SSDI payments and she is 62 in May 2016. Becky was married 30 years to another man who is now deceased. William married Becky after her 60th birthday. William will file a restricted application for spousal payments at his FRA August 2019. I want to maximize my social security so tell me if this is a viable strategy.

William will have a 9 month window of spousal payments August 2019 thru May 2020 that will end, because Becky will withdraw her automatic retirement benefits (from SSDI) in May 2020 at her FRA and apply for a higher widows payment therefore allowing her to possibly take an even higher retirement benefit payment in May 2024 at age 70. Just checking to see is all that is possible.

Thank you

Hi, You probably read the first version of Get What's Yours -- the Secrets to Maxing Out Your Social Security Benefits. The revised version was published in early May. It explains that disabled workers are no longer permitted to withdraw the conversion of their disability benefit to a retirement benefit and take a full spousal benefit or a full divorced spousal benefit while waiting till 70 to take their own retirement benefit. They can, however, suspend their retirement benefit at full retirement age and restart it at a 32 percent higher value at 70.

Becky can collect a reduced excess widows (or divorced widows) benefit on the first deceased spouse's work record. The reduction will go away at full retirement age. I think Becky should take this excess widows benefit right away. William should probably file for his spousal benefit at his FRA and take his own retirement benefit at 70. And Becky should potentially take her excess spousal benefit from William's work record when he reaches 70.

I can't say for sure, however, what's best because there are many factors involved including both of your maximum ages of life and your relative earnings. Also, Becky can't collect on a current and also a deceased spouse at the same time. She'll get the larger of the two excess benefits. I recommend running our software ignoring the deceased spouse and then finding out from Social Security what her excess widows benefits will be every year in the future if she starts them now.

We have an expert review service if you need our detailed help looking at your case.

best, Larry

Jun 9 2016 - 12:00am
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