Q&A: Survivor benefits and marital status

Dear Liz: My boyfriend’s ex-wife passed away last year. Can he file for her Social Security benefits at age 48 even if she was remarried at time of her death?

Answer: The ex’s marital status doesn’t matter. What matters is whether or not your boyfriend was married to her for at least 10 years.

If the marriage lasted at least that long, then your boyfriend would be eligible for survivor benefits at age 60, assuming he hasn’t remarried by then. If he is disabled, he could apply at age 50. And if he is caring for his ex-wife’s children who are under 16 or disabled, then he can apply at any age.

Recipients of survivor benefits can marry at age 60 or later without losing those benefits. (Note that this marriage clause applies only to survivor benefits. People receiving spousal benefits based on a living ex’s work record cannot remarry without losing those benefits.)

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Comments

  1. If the marriage lasted at least that long, then your boyfriend would be eligible for survivor benefits at age 60, assuming he hasn’t remarried by then – MY QUESTION: doesn’t he have to be at full retirement age, say 67?

    • Liz Weston says

      His benefits would be reduced for the early start and he’d be subject to the earnings test.