By Mary Beth Franklin
Widows and widowers have more flexibility than other Social Security beneficiaries when it comes to claiming strategies because retirement benefits and survivor benefits represent two different pots of money.
A surviving spouse or an eligible surviving divorced spouse can choose one type of benefit first and switch to the other benefit later if it results in a larger monthly amount. It doesn’t matter in which order they claim those benefits or when they were born.
Unlike Social Security claiming strategies that limit the ability of some people to claim only spousal benefits while their own retirement benefits continue to grow up to age 70 to those born on or before Jan. 1, 1954, surviving spouses and ex-spouses have no such birth date restrictions.
In general, to be eligible for a Social Security survivor’s benefits, a widow or widower must have been married to the deceased worker for at least nine months and at the time of his or her death.