I get this question a lot. What will my benefits be when my husband passes away? When one spouse dies, the other can collect Social Security survivor benefits. So spousal benefits (if being collected) now become survivor benefits. This is applicable for either spouse, but let’s take a look at John and Cheryl:
The amount Cheryl would receive depends on several variables.
If John dies before he starts collecting Social Security, then Cheryl’s survivor benefits will be based on what John’s benefits would have been at his full retirement age.
The percentage of the benefits Cheryl receives depends on her age when she collects them. If Cheryl is at full retirement age or older, she will collect 100% of John’s benefit as her survivor benefit. So there is no benefit to Cheryl to wait past full retirement age.
If Cheryl is between age 60 and her full retirement age, she will collect 71.55 to 99% percent of John’s benefit depending on her age. The older Cheryl is the higher the percentage.
If John had begun collecting his Social Security benefits before he died, then Cheryl’s survivor benefit would be based on that amount. This benefit would also be reduced if Cheryl began collecting under full retirement age.
For each year John delays claiming his benefits, they grow by as much as 8 percent, up until he reaches age 70. So as his benefit increases, Cheryl’s survivor benefit increases, too.
However, if John claims early, the survivor benefit Cheryl would receive will be reduced.
So the key here is to examine all of your options. Any time your situation changes either through divorce or death it is always advisable to contact the Social Security Administration to determine the effects on your benefits.