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Can I Get Survivor Advantages if Our Marriage Report Was Destroyed?

Pricey Penny,

I’m a widow. My husband was 53 when he died. He was amassing Social Safety incapacity for about two years previous his demise.

I’m nearing retirement age and was planning on taking his Social Safety once I attain my full retirement age, after which switching to mine once I flip 70.

Is this feature nonetheless out there? Would I be eligible for 100% of his? Once I referred to as Social Safety, the girl stated, “It will likely be a shock.” Shock, my foot! I must know.

I additionally could have a tough time proving we had been married. Our wedding ceremony license burned up in a current home fireplace. We had been married within the Bahamas, and I doubt they preserve information. I is perhaps OK in that I had the wedding license on the time of his demise and used it to gather the one-time $255 demise profit, so it might be within the system. That could be my solely salvation. 

I’ve obtained so many conflicting solutions relating to having the ability to swap from his to mine once I’m 70.


Pricey S.,

I don’t assume you’re in for any huge surprises. So long as you’re eligible to your late husband’s survivor advantages, you’re allowed to begin survivor advantages, then swap to your individual increased Social Safety profit afterward. And even with out the precise marriage license, it’s best to have the ability to show that you simply had been married.

Let’s begin with the primary challenge, although. I think that the confusion you’re working into stems from the truth that the principles have modified for spousal advantages, that are paid to spouses and ex-spouses primarily based on the work document of somebody who’s nonetheless alive.

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Up to now, married {couples} usually used what was often known as a restricted utility. One partner would file an utility for spousal advantages solely as early as age 62. Then, they’d swap to their very own retirement afterward. This was a preferred technique to maximize advantages as a result of the longer you wait to take Social Safety, the larger your checks will likely be.

However a 2015 regulation ended this technique for anybody born after Jan. 1, 1954. Nonetheless, there are exceptions for spouses who qualify for incapacity advantages or are caring for a kid who’s youthful than 16 or disabled.

The necessary factor to know is that this alteration doesn’t apply to survivor advantages. You possibly can declare survivor advantages as early as 60 or age 50 when you’re disabled. Then you may swap over to your individual profit as early as 62 or as late as age 70 in order for you the utmost profit.

In contrast to retirement advantages, survivor advantages cap out at full retirement age. You’ll get 100% of your late husband’s profit at that time. So that you’ll get the largest Social Safety checks potential by doing what you’re planning.

For those who don’t wish to take my phrase for it, right here’s what Social Safety’s web site says: For those who’re eligible for each survivor and retirement advantages however haven’t but utilized, “You possibly can apply for retirement or survivors advantages now and swap to the opposite (increased) profit later.” For all the principles on this subject, try Social Safety’s publication “If You Are the Survivor,” which is out there on-line.

You must also have the ability to doc that your marriage did, in actual fact, exist even when you need to soar by just a few extra hoops. I don’t know if Social Safety would have the ability to use the one-time $255 cost you obtained when your husband died as proof. However within the absence of a wedding certificates, you should still have the ability to receive a licensed copy of your marriage paperwork by contacting the U.S. embassy within the Bahamas.

When official paperwork aren’t out there, Social Safety may also settle for different proof, like witness statements or images from the ceremony. You most likely have proof of the home fireplace that you possibly can use as proof of why you don’t have the unique marriage certificates. I’m guessing you have got different paperwork, like tax returns or property information when you owned a house collectively, that you possibly can use as extra proof.

Typically when you have got an advanced scenario, you gained’t get excellent info by calling Social Safety. There are such a lot of difficult guidelines, and it’s inconceivable for one particular person to have the fitting reply for each situation. However you may usually discover the data you want on Social Safety’s web site,

Attempt to discover as a lot info as potential earlier than you name. If what you’re advised conflicts with official Social Safety info, level out the discrepancy. Ask them to refer you to the precise rule they’re citing. It could even be useful to take notes throughout every telephone name. Doc the time and date of the telephone name and the identify of the worker you communicate with.

Coping with any forms could be a headache. However it feels like you have got a sensible technique for maximizing your Social Safety. For those who do a little bit of prep work, I don’t assume you’ll encounter any main hurdles in claiming the advantages you’re entitled to.

Robin Hartill is a licensed monetary planner and a senior author at The Penny Hoarder. Ship your tough cash inquiries to [email protected].



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