I had been drawing off of my ex spouse's benefits; when I reached age 70 I started to draw from my own. When my ex spouse dies will I receive a higher amount and will that change automatically or do I have to apply for it. I have not been in contact with him for 20 years and would not know if he were to die.
If your ex-spouse's benefit rate is higher than your own benefit rate, it sounds like you'd be eligible for his or her higher rate as a survivor. You'd only get the higher of his rate or your rate, however, not both.
Your divorced spousal benefits would have been terminated when you switched to your own higher benefit amount at age 70, so you wouldn't automatically start receiving survivor benefits in the event of your ex's death. You'd need file a new application in order to become eligible for survivor benefits on your ex's account. If you wouldn't have any other way of knowing if your ex-spouse dies, you should probably plan on contacting Social Security every 6 months to see if you could qualify for survivor benefits. Survivor benefits can't be paid retroactively for more than 6 months prior to the month that an application is filed, so you could lose benefits if you don't file within 6 months of your ex's death.