One key benefit that many people overlook when trying to maximize their Social Security benefits is the spousal benefit. Under Social Security regulations, an individual may apply for Social Security benefits based on the work history of their spouse.
Social Security spousal benefits are granted to provide Social Security benefits to individuals who performed the important work of raising families and maintaining the family home, by allowing them to claim benefits based on their spouse’s work history. In addition, if the individual also did work and is eligible for their own personal Social Security benefits, applying for Social Security spousal benefits can allow that individual to delay receipt of their own personal Social Security benefits, allowing those benefits to increase.
Social Security regulations are complex. It can be difficult to determine eligibility for various Social Security benefits, to calculate the number of benefits available, and to figure out what steps will maximize your Social Security benefits. That is why it is critical that you speak to an experienced Social Security lawyer who can help you understand your options and work with you and your family to maximize your benefits and your income.
If you have questions about your options under Social Security, contact the Oklahoma City Social Security attorneys at Ryan Bisher Ryan & Simons today to schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced Social Security lawyers.
How to Maximize Spousal Social Security Benefits
The spousal Social Security benefit is generally 50 percent of your spouse’s benefit at their full retirement age (as of 2020, the full retirement age is 66 and will continue to rise to 67). Many people maximize their own personal Social Security benefits by delaying receipt of their benefits past their full retirement age, including up to age 70, when Social Security benefits must begin to payout.
Anyone who was born on or before January 1, 1954, has the option, once they reach full retirement age, of filing a restricted application for Social Security benefits, which means that they can choose to collect spousal Social Security benefits and then later switch over to collecting their own personal Social Security benefits, once the amount of that benefit exceeds the spousal benefit or until they turn 70 years old.
Although a spouse may begin to collect spousal Social Security benefits early (provided he or she is eligible for such benefits), unlike personal benefits, the spousal Social Security benefit maxes out when you reach your full retirement age. There is no benefit to delaying receipt of spousal benefits past your full retirement age. In addition, you will want to compare the spousal Social Security benefits you would receive against your own personal benefits to determine the higher amount, which is the benefit you should claim.
Under limited circumstances, it may be possible to claim spousal Social Security benefits without reductions prior to your full retirement age or even prior to age 62.
A spouse can claim benefits without reduction if they meet the following criteria:
- Married for at least one year to the spouse whom they are claiming benefits under.
- Must be caring for a child who is either under 16 years old or is disabled and receiving Social Security Disability benefits or child Social Security benefits based on your spouse’s work history.
- Your spouse must be receiving his or her own personal Social Security benefits.
Our Social Security lawyers at Ryan Bisher Ryan & Simons can help you figure out the best strategy for maximizing your Social Security benefits.
How Social Security Spousal Benefit Is Calculated
As a general matter, the Social Security spousal benefit is equal to 50 percent of your spouse’s Social Security benefit as calculated at their full retirement age. Therefore, if your spouse would receive Social Security benefits of $2,000 at their full retirement age, you could receive a spousal Social Security benefit of $1,000 at your full retirement age.
In addition, like personal Social Security benefits, the Social Security spousal benefit can be collected prior to reaching your full retirement age. And also like personal Social Security benefits, your spousal benefits will be reduced if you collect those benefits before your full retirement age. Unless an exception applies, you can begin collecting 71.5 percent of the spousal Social Security benefit you are entitled to beginning at age 60, with that amount gradually increasing every month, until you reach full retirement age at 66.
Can I Receive Social Security Benefits from My Ex-Spouse?
Because the spousal benefit is intended to compensate spouses who perform the critical tasks of raising the family and maintaining the family home, spouses who undertook this work during their marriage may wonder whether they can receive Social Security spousal benefits from a former spouse following their divorce. In short, a person can receive Social Security spousal benefits from an ex-spouse, including if your ex-spouse has died.
A person can apply for spousal Social Security benefits based on their ex-spouse’s benefits if they meet the following eligibility requirements:
- The marriage must have lasted for at least 10 years.
- You must have been divorced for at least two years.
- You must be currently unmarried.
If you have been through multiple eligible marriages and divorces, you may elect whichever ex-spouse’s benefits that provide you with the highest payment.
Who Is Eligible for Survivor Benefits from Social Security?
When you or your spouse retires and becomes eligible to receive Social Security benefits, if you or your spouse pass away, members of your family may become eligible for survivor benefits from Social Security.
Social Security survivor benefits amount to a percentage of the Social Security benefits payouts you would have received.
Family members who may be eligible for survivor benefits from Social Security include:
- Your spouse, if he or she remains unmarried, provided your spouse is over 60 years old
- Minor children
- Adult disabled children
- Your parents, if they are your dependents
- Stepchildren, adopted children, grandchildren, and step-grandchildren may also be eligible under certain circumstances
Your decedents (children, grandchildren, etc.) may be subjected to a blackout period for survivor benefits if their surviving parent is ineligible to collect survivor benefits from you.
Finally, if your spouse dies, you can receive a one-time death benefit of $255 if your spouse was living with you at the time of his or her death. This benefit can also be paid if you weren’t living with your spouse provided the spouse is receiving certain Social Security benefits on your record, or it can be paid to a child who is eligible for Social Security benefits based on the deceased parent’s work record.
How a Lawyer Can Help with Social Security Spousal Benefits
If you find that parsing the Social Security regulations is complicated, or if you are trying to apply for spousal Social Security benefits but are having your applications rejected, a lawyer can help you understand your rights and options under the Social Security regulations and also help you apply for the benefits that you are entitled to.
A Social Security attorney can help you with determining your eligibility for Social Security spousal benefits or for filing a restricted benefits application upon reaching full retirement age. An attorney can also help you calculate the various benefits you may be entitled to and can help you craft a plan that will maximize the Social Security benefits you receive throughout your retirement.
When looking for a lawyer to help you with Social Security benefits, you’ll want to choose an attorney with experience in handling Social Security claims. When you go to a consultation, you should ask the attorney questions about their experience handling Social Security cases, their rate of success with cases, their current caseload (will they have sufficient time to dedicate to you and your case), and whether they can provide you with references who can talk about their experiences with the attorney.
Contact Ryan Bisher Ryan & Simons
If you have questions about how you may be able to maximize your Social Security benefits using spousal benefits and survivor benefits, contact our Oklahoma City Social Security attorneys to set up a no-cost consultation. You can discuss your situation and learn more about your options under the Social Security regulations.Get Started