Social Security Planning: Tips for Avoiding Penalties in the Event of a Spouse’s Death

You may wish to double-check your social security benefits as you prepare for retirement. However, the loss of a spouse can have a significant financial impact on your retirement plans.

If Social Security payments are a portion of your retirement income, you should be aware that you cannot collect both your own and a deceased spouse’s benefits at the same time. The bigger of the two sums are paid out by Social Security.

According to the National Academy of Social Insurance, 3.7 million people get social security payments based on their deceased spouse’s job record. Another 3.8 million people are eligible for benefits, but because the sum is larger, they get them as a surviving spouse.

In most circumstances, the surviving spouse receives the same amount of social security payments as their deceased spouse. To be eligible for benefits, the pair must have been married for at least nine months at the time of death, and the surviving spouse must be at least 60 years old.

However, this isn’t always the case.

You may take steps right now to prevent paying excessive social security fines if your spouse passes away.

Social Security Planning: Tips for Avoiding Penalties in the Event of a Spouse's Death

Ensure that your spouse does not begin collecting benefits until he or she reaches full retirement age

Your spousal payments will be lowered if your partner begins receiving benefits before reaching full retirement age. The full retirement age varies based on the year you were born, although it usually falls between the ages of 66 and 67.

By waiting for filing until they reach the age of 70, your spouse can raise the number of their benefits, as well as any survivor benefits you may get.

Do not seek survivor benefits until you have reached the age of full retirement

If you are handicapped, you can file for survivor benefits as early as age 60. However, if you wish to avoid fines, this may not be the greatest financial decision.

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Your payments will be lowered by 71.5 percent to 99 percent if you claim survivor benefits before reaching full retirement age (66 if you were born in 1956 and subsequently climbs to 67 for those born in 1962 or later).

Do not remarry before reaching the age of 60. (50 if you are disabled)

Unless you remarried before your 60th birthday, you can earn survivor benefits if your spouse dies before you reach the age of 60.

If this is the case, you will not be eligible for survivor payments. If you remarry after turning 60 (or 50 if handicapped), you can keep your survivor benefits.

If you’re still working, be conscious of your earnings restrictions

You can receive survivor benefits while working, but you should be mindful of earnings restrictions, which will lower your payments if you have not yet reached full retirement age. Earnings limitations change every year and are determined by your age.

If you are qualified for survivor benefits and are already receiving them as a result of your spouse’s employment history, they will begin immediately after your spouse’s death is reported.

You must apply for survivor benefits if you are receiving social security payments based on your own work history or if you are not receiving benefits at all.

According to, the easiest method to do so is to phone the Social Security Administration and schedule an appointment.