Would My Ex-Wife Get My Age 70 Rate Or My Age 66 Rate If I Die?

Mar 7 2018 - 11:36am

My question is regarding survivor benefits for my ex wife in the case where we have both delayed taking our own benefit until after age 70. We were married more than 10 years and remain single. I took half spousal on her work record from my age 66 to 70 and am now collecting my own max benefit of $3,630/mo. That's about 35% higher than if I had started collecting $2,713/mo at age 66. That's a common strategy. She is 4 years younger and is also collecting half spousal on me until she reaches age 70 when her maximized benefit would reach about $2,500/mo figuring in inflation.

I present a scenario down the road where I die at age 74 and her age 70. She can collect 100% of my benefit but which benefit is that? Would it be my so called "full retirement benefit" calculated for my age 66? Or would it be the max benefit I'm collecting by having delayed to 70? There's a big difference. My conversations with the SS office suggest she would get my age 66 FRB and not the boosted max benefit but I find their response depends on how I ask the question. Or perhaps they're not clear themselves since the situation is atypical. Please advise.

Hi,

Since you waited until age 70 to start your benefits, your ex-wife could qualify for survivor benefits equal to your full benefit rate inclusive of the 32% increase you earned by waiting. And since she has already reached her full retirement age, she could qualify for that amount as soon as you die. She couldn't get both her own benefit rate and yours, though, just the higher of the two.

Best, Jerry