Happy New Year! Here's a tip for those of us who just keep on giving… If you're divorced, it's possible to claim Social Security spousal and survivor benefits from your ex. It is a strategy that can dramatically boost your benefits – and it will be important for more retirees in the years ahead.
Today’s retiring generations face new challenges simply not seen much by past generations. The wax and wane of Congress for one, and the dramatic rise of healthcare costs for another. An additional challenge hits a little closer to home for other retirees – those who are divorced. It's a sign to many who knew that such double dipping (ex spouse and current spouse) was possible of further proof that our legal system has not kept up with the social reality in which we live. If you have been divorced, it is critical that you understand how Social Security benefits take divorce into account. Demographically speaking, this is even more essential for retiring women.
The role of Social Security benefits in the retired life of a divorcee can be crucial, as discussed in a recent Reuters article titled “Column: Knowing Social Security rules can help divorced spouses.” Basically, Social Security payments are related to your paid work during your working years. As a result, many ex-spouses simply have not built up sufficient “numbers” because of how household incomes were split back in the day. Interestingly, You may be eligible for many of the same benefits from the Social Security Administration you would have received if you had remained married to your ex.
But it is not automatic. Here are some threshold requirements:
- You must be currently single,
- You must have been married to your ex for at least 10 years,
- Your divorce must be “final” for at least two years,
- You must have reached the minimum Social Security eligibility age (62), and
- You must not be currently collecting a benefit amount greater than that of your ex.
Note: Your eligibility is completely independent of the benefits collected by your ex, but you will lose the benefits if you remarry. I recommend reading the original article for additional tips and traps. Call or visit your local Social Security office regarding the folder of paperwork you will need to gather for qualification.
You can learn more about this topic as well as other strategies on our website under the tab entitled: elder law planning in Virginia. Be sure you also sign up for our complimentary e-newsletter so that you may be informed of all the latest issues that could affect you, your loved ones and your estate planning.
Reference: Reuters (May 9, 2013) “Column: Knowing Social Security rules can help divorced spouses”