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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 accumulating Social Safety incapacity for about two years previous his loss of life.

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

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

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

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


Pricey S.,

I don’t suppose you’re in for any large surprises. So long as you’re eligible in your late husband’s survivor advantages, you’re allowed to start out survivor advantages, then swap to your personal increased Social Safety profit afterward. And even with out the precise marriage license, it is best to be capable of show that you just have been married.

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

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Prior to now, married {couples} typically used what was often called a restricted software. One partner would file an software for spousal advantages solely as early as age 62. Then, they’d swap to their very own retirement afterward. This was a preferred strategy to maximize advantages as a result of the longer you wait to take Social Safety, the larger your checks might 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 essential factor to know is that this alteration doesn’t apply to survivor advantages. You may declare survivor advantages as early as 60 or age 50 for those who’re disabled. Then you may swap over to your personal profit as early as 62 or as late as age 70 if you need the utmost profit.

Not like 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 doable by doing what you’re planning.

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

You must also be capable of doc that your marriage did, actually, exist even when you need to bounce by way of just a few extra hoops. I don’t know if Social Safety would be capable of use the one-time $255 fee you obtained when your husband died as proof. However within the absence of a wedding certificates, you should still be capable of get hold of an authorized copy of your marriage paperwork by contacting the U.S. embassy within the Bahamas.

When official paperwork aren’t obtainable, Social Safety can even settle for different proof, like witness statements or pictures from the ceremony. You most likely have proof of the home hearth that you would use as proof of why you don’t have the unique marriage certificates. I’m guessing you will have different paperwork, like tax returns or property data for those who owned a house collectively, that you would use as further proof.

Generally when you will have an advanced scenario, you gained’t get good data by calling Social Safety. There are such a lot of sophisticated guidelines, and it’s not possible for one individual to have the suitable reply for each state of affairs. However you may typically discover the data you want on Social Safety’s web site,

Attempt to discover as a lot data as doable earlier than you name. If what you’re advised conflicts with official Social Safety data, level out the discrepancy. Ask them to refer you to the precise rule they’re citing. It might even be useful to take notes throughout every cellphone name. Doc the time and date of the cellphone name and the title of the worker you converse with.

Coping with any paperwork is usually a headache. However it appears like you will have a wise technique for maximizing your Social Safety. In case you do a little bit of prep work, I don’t suppose you’ll encounter any main hurdles in claiming the advantages you’re entitled to.

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



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