Spousal Social Security Death Benefits & Remarriage
If your spouse passes away before you do, you may get some money in the form of Social Security. But there are rules attached to those payments, one of which is that if you remarry, it may affect those benefits. Your age and your new spouse’s Supplemental Security Income collection status will determine whether your benefit changes.
If your spouse dies, you’re usually entitled to their Social Security benefits. However, if you remarry, those benefits will stop unless you’ve reached the age of 60.
Widow Marriage and Social Security
When a person’s spouse dies with Social Security benefits, the widow may be entitled to that money. The deceased must have worked long enough to accrue benefits at the time of death. In addition to widows, a person’s surviving children may also be entitled to benefits based on the person’s Social Security credits.
Qualifying to receive those benefits depends on a variety of factors, though. Once you’re approved, you’ll also need to remain unmarried until you reach the age of 60, or 50 if you’re disabled. If the remarriage ends, though, you may be eligible for benefits once again.
Benefits for Divorced Spouses
If you’re divorced and your ex-spouse dies, you may be entitled to your ex-spouse’s benefits even if the deceased was married to someone else at the time of death. You’ll need to have been married for 10 years or longer to qualify, and you’ll also have to be age 62 or older. Your ex-spouse will need to be at the eligible age for benefits for you to qualify.
As with surviving spouses, ex-spouses will not be able to collect benefits if they remarry. If you’re remarried at the time of your ex’s death, you won’t be able to request the benefits. If your later marriage ends through divorce, death or annulment, however, you may become eligible.
Benefits for Surviving Children
Unmarried children under the age of 18 will be eligible for a deceased parent’s Social Security benefits. Children who are still in school can receive those benefits up to the age of 19. If your child was disabled before the age of 22, he’ll be eligible for benefits at any age. This can extend to stepchildren, grandchildren, step-grandchildren and adopted children.
If you remarry, that has no bearing on your child’s Social Security payout from a deceased parent. However, if your child is receiving Supplemental Security Income, remarriage could affect that because eligibility is based on your household income. The new spouse’s assets and income would then be factored in during the application process.
Surviving Parents and Remarriage
In addition to asking, “Will I lose my widow's pension if I remarry?” you may also wonder if your late spouse’s dependent parents are affected by it. If a parent received more than half her support from the child at the time of death, she may be eligible for Social Security benefits. The parent can’t qualify for a higher benefit on her own than the deceased child in order to qualify for it.
Although the surviving parents won’t be affected by the widow’s remarriage, their own marital status comes into play. In order to receive a child’s Social Security benefits, a dependent parent can’t have married after the child’s death. This benefit also extends to stepparents and adoptive parents.
Benefits You’ll Receive
The amount you’ll get as a widow depends on the amount the deceased person earned during his lifetime. The more money your late spouse received, the more you’ll get. You’ll be eligible for a percentage of the deceased’s benefit, so it may not be the full amount.
Widow marriage benefits depend largely on the widow’s age. If you’re full retirement age or older, you’ll be entitled to the deceased’s full benefit amount. A widow age 60 or older will receive 71.5 to 99 percent, whereas a disabled widow between the ages of 50 and 59 will get the lower end of that range, 71.5 percent.
New Spouse’s Social Security Benefits
Before you ask, “Will I lose my widow's pension if I remarry?” you may want to make sure you’re better off with your late spouse’s Social Security payment. If your new spouse qualifies for Social Security, you may find that you’re better off with the new spouse’s Social Security earnings. If you’re eligible for retirement benefits, you may discover that your own Social Security payment is more than your late spouse’s, so it’s important to check in on that.
If your new spouse qualifies for Social Security payments, you should apply for those benefits and see what the result is. If your payment through your new spouse’s Social Security is higher than your deceased spouse’s, you’ll receive a combined benefit based on both spouses. If your late spouse’s benefits come out higher and you’ve reached the minimum age, you will be allowed to stay with the previous benefits you were receiving.
Adjusting Your Benefits
Regardless of the situation, if you choose to remarry, you’ll need to take a look at your benefits. Chances are, you’ll need to make some changes, considering the fact that Social Security benefits for widows who remarry usually change after the marriage is official.
Switching from one benefit to the other is fairly straightforward. In fact, the Social Security Administration often sees a widow switch from one benefit to the other after reaching a certain age. There is no penalty for making such a change. You should be able to call the Social Security Administration or visit your local Social Security office to get help with making the change.
Lump-Sum Death Benefits
Although monthly Social Security benefits for widows who remarry may be affected, there is a lump-sum payment surviving spouses and children can obtain that isn’t impacted by a remarriage. This payment is $255 and goes to the surviving spouse, as long as that person was living with the spouse at the time of death.
If the spouse has remarried or is otherwise ineligible, that $255 payment can go to the child. In order to receive it, though, the child will need to have been receiving benefits on the deceased’s record or have become eligible for benefits when the parent died. The spouse or child is required to apply for this lump-sum payment within two years of the person’s death.
New Spouse Salary and Benefits
If you’re already receiving Social Security benefits, a widow marriage may give you reason to worry. You may have retired, only to find you’re marrying someone who is continuing to work. You may worry that your new spouse’s income will affect your own payment since there’s a cap on how much you can make without reducing the amount of Social Security you receive.
The good news is that your spouse’s income will have no bearing on your own Social Security payments. The Social Security Administration looks at how much you make, not your household earnings. However, if your spouse is receiving Social Security benefits, your total household income may be affected by the Social Security versus paycheck balance, so it’s important to pay close attention to it.
Remarriage and Social Security Taxability
Although your spouse’s job may not affect your own Social Security check, you may feel the pain at tax time. Generally speaking, Social Security earnings aren’t taxable, but that changes if you have earned income coming in. Earned income includes that paycheck your new spouse is bringing home every couple of weeks.
If you’re married filing jointly, your household can earn up to $32,000 before your Social Security is taxed at the 50 percent rate. You can earn from $32,000 to $44,000 before being taxed at 85 percent. If you qualify as head of household, though, which requires having one or more dependents, you can only make up to $25,000 before being taxed at 50 percent, or $34,000 for the 85 percent rate.
Applying for Survivor Benefits
When a loved one dies, it’s important to apply as soon as possible. In many cases, you’ll find that the funeral home will make that notification, but you may need to get the process started. The administrative staff at the funeral home will need the Social Security number of the person who died in order to file the necessary paperwork.
If you have questions about your benefits, including Social Security benefits for widows who remarry, you can always contact the Social Security Administration to ask. You can call 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. You also have the option of visiting your local Social Security office to get answers in person.
Pensions and Remarriage
There are other reasons not to remarry. In addition to questions about Social Security, you may wonder, “Will I lose my widow's pension if I remarry?” If your late spouse was entitled to a pension and you're listed as the beneficiary, this money will go to you regardless of your marital status. How this money is paid depends on how the plan itself was written, so it’s important to check for any caveats.
If your deceased spouse was in a position subject to survivor’s annuities, as is often the case with firefighters and police officers, your payout may be affected by your remarriage. The same may be the case for widows of military personnel. There may be an age limit attached to that, though, so it might be fine to remarry after a certain age.
Estate Considerations and Remarriage
Parents have something else to worry about when remarrying, especially later in life. When you die, you’ll likely want at least part of your estate to go to your children, but even with a will, some states direct that a minimum amount must go to the spouse. You may find that your new spouse and children end up battling over assets you possessed together, such as your house.
Avoiding remarriage is one way to ensure the bulk of your estate goes to your children, especially if you have a will in place. However, if you do want to remarry, you could both protect against this scenario by signing a prenuptial agreement where you each agree not to take anything from the estate of the other person. You may also find that you get the most control over where things go by setting up a trust.
Other Reasons to Stay Unmarried
For some older couples, living together often becomes a good alternative to tying the knot. It’s important to carefully consider this option, though. If you share a home and each contribute to the mortgage payment, you may run into difficulty if one of you dies and that home is considered part of the deceased’s estate. Putting the home in both names could be an option, but if you’re not married, the fate of that house still depends on local laws.
Intestate succession laws vary from one state to another but, generally speaking, if someone dies without a surviving spouse, the home and other assets go to the children. If, on the other hand, the person was married, some states will divide the assets between the spouse and children. A will may offset this, but you will usually have more rights as a spouse than a significant other.
- SSA: Benefits Planner: Survivors | If You Are The Survivor
- SSA: Will Remarriage Affect My Social Security Benefits?
- SSA: If You Are Divorced
- The Motley Fool: Will My Spouse's Income Reduce My Social Security Check?
- The Motley Fool: Is Social Security Taxable?
- Protective: What Happens to My Pension If I Die Before I Retire?
- ElderLawAnswers: Is It Better to Remarry or Just Live Together?
- FindLaw: Intestate Succession Laws by State
Stephanie Faris has written about finance for entrepreneurs and marketing firms since 2013. She spent nearly a year as a ghostwriter for a credit card processing service and has ghostwritten about finance for numerous marketing firms and entrepreneurs. Her work has appeared on The Motley Fool, MoneyGeek, Ecommerce Insiders, GoBankingRates, and ThriveBy30.