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Social Security Primer for Widows or Divorced People Who Remarry Late in Life

The Social Security Administration uses many factors to calculate benefit amounts for beneficiaries, and that includes marital status. Those who remarry late in life need to be aware of what could change as a result. This article from Investopedia’s, “How Remarrying Late in Life Impacts SS Benefits” explains the details.

If you’re widowed, you may want to wait until after age 60. If either you or your fiancé is widowed and getting Social Security benefits based on the deceased spouse’s work record, his or her age matters. A surviving spouse who remarries prior to age 60 becomes ineligible to receive benefits on their late spouse’s record. However, after your first anniversary with your new spouse, you become eligible for spousal benefits based on their work record.

Couples in their late 50s with questions about the Social Security implications of their marriage can do the numbers. They can decide whether to delay their marriage to keep a widow’s benefit for longer, or if the spousal benefit from their new union will offer more financial security. As long as you’re married at least nine months before one spouse’s death, the surviving spouse is eligible for spousal benefits based on the second marriage.

A second marriage after divorce. If one or both members of the new couple is divorced, things are a bit trickier, because the Social Security Administration does allow divorced spouses to collect spousal benefits, based upon the work records of an ex-spouse, if the divorced beneficiary meets these criteria:

The original marriage lasted at least 10 years.
The beneficiary applying for divorced spousal benefits has remained unmarried.The beneficiary applying for divorced spousal benefits has reached at least age 62.

If you are divorced from an ex who significantly out-earned you and your new fiancé, remarrying stops the ex-spousal benefits you’d otherwise get. Therefore, cohabitating without getting married, sometimes makes more financial sense for some couples.

What if you are receiving Social Security Disability Insurance? Beneficiaries who are receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) may have the most difficult calculations when looking at a second marriage, because they’re subject to a family maximum benefit (FMB) calculation that limits the amount of money available for auxiliary benefits, like the dependent child benefit.

Calculate and compare these three amounts to determine FMB:85% of the worker’s average indexed monthly earnings (AIME).

The worker’s primary insurance amount (PIA) based on full retirement age.150% of the worker’s PIA. If number three is the highest, the FMB is the higher of number one or two. If number one is the highest of the three, the family maximum benefits is number three.

A late-in-life marriage usually brings smiles to everyone’s faces. However, before walking down the aisle, make sure that you both understand the impact that your wedded bliss could have on your Social Security benefits. This is also the time to sit down with an estate planning attorney to make sure that your estate plan is updated, and that other necessary documents, like power of attorney and medical directives, are up to date.

Reference: Investopedia (August 1, 2018) “How Remarrying Late in Life Impacts SS Benefits”

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