Ask Kim


Understanding Social Security Survivor Benefits

Kimberly Lankford

If two spouses receive Social Security, find out how much the surviving spouse gets if one of them dies.



My husband and I both receive Social Security. When one of us dies, does the other get any portion of that check, or does it stop completely?

SEE ALSO: A To-Do List for the Surviving Spouse

It depends on who dies first and the size of his or her benefit. If your husband receives a larger benefit than you do and he dies first, you would step up to his larger benefit, but your own Social Security benefit would disappear.

As long as you are at least normal retirement age -- currently 66 -- at the time, your survivor benefit would equal 100% of what he received, even if your retirement benefit was reduced because you began collecting Social Security before your normal retirement age.

If you die first, your husband would continue to collect his own benefit, but your smaller benefit would disappear. Essentially, the surviving spouse gets to keep the larger of the two benefits, but not both.

Got a question? Ask Kim at askkim@kiplinger.com.



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