Can I Get Survivor Benefits if Our Marriage Record Was Destroyed?

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Expensive Penny,

I’m a widow. My husband was 53 when he died. He was gathering Social Safety incapacity for about two years previous his demise.

I’m nearing retirement age and was planning on taking his Social Safety after I attain my full retirement age, after which switching to mine after I flip 70.

Is this feature nonetheless obtainable? Would I be eligible for 100% of his? Once I known as Social Safety, the woman mentioned, “It is going to be a shock.” Shock, my foot! I have to know.

I additionally could have a troublesome time proving we have been married. Our marriage ceremony license burned up in a current home hearth. We have been married within the Bahamas, and I doubt they maintain data. I could be OK in that I had the wedding license on the time of his demise and used it to gather the one-time $255 demise profit, so it might be within the system. That could be my solely salvation. 

I’ve acquired so many conflicting solutions concerning having the ability to change from his to mine after I’m 70.


Expensive S.,

I don’t suppose you’re in for any large surprises. So long as you’re eligible on your late husband’s survivor advantages, you’re allowed to start out survivor advantages, then change to your personal increased Social Safety profit in a while. And even with out the precise marriage license, it is best to have the ability to show that you simply have been married.

Let’s begin with the primary concern, although. I think that the confusion you’re operating into stems from the truth that the principles have modified for spousal advantages, that are paid to spouses and ex-spouses based mostly on the work file of somebody who’s nonetheless alive.

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Prior to now, married {couples} typically used what was often called a restricted utility. One partner would file an utility for spousal advantages solely as early as age 62. Then, they’d change to their very own retirement in a while. This was a preferred approach to maximize advantages as a result of the longer you wait to take Social Safety, the larger your checks might be.

However a 2015 legislation ended this technique for anybody born after Jan. 1, 1954. Nonetheless, there are exceptions for spouses who qualify for incapacity advantages or are caring for a kid who’s youthful than 16 or disabled.

The necessary factor to know is that this variation doesn’t apply to survivor advantages. You possibly can declare survivor advantages as early as 60 or age 50 should you’re disabled. Then you may change over to your personal profit as early as 62 or as late as age 70 if you’d like the utmost profit.

In contrast to retirement advantages, survivor advantages cap out at full retirement age. You’ll get 100% of your late husband’s profit at that time. So that you’ll get the largest Social Safety checks doable by doing what you’re planning.

Should you don’t need to take my phrase for it, right here’s what Social Safety’s web site says: Should you’re eligible for each survivor and retirement advantages however haven’t but utilized, “You possibly can apply for retirement or survivors advantages now and change to the opposite (increased) profit later.” For all the principles on this subject, try Social Safety’s publication “If You Are the Survivor,” which is obtainable on-line.

You also needs to have the ability to doc that your marriage did, actually, exist even when it’s important to leap via a number of extra hoops. I don’t know if Social Safety would have the ability to use the one-time $255 cost you acquired when your husband died as proof. However within the absence of a wedding certificates, you should still have the ability to get hold of a licensed copy of your marriage paperwork by contacting the U.S. embassy within the Bahamas.

When official paperwork aren’t obtainable, Social Safety can even settle for different proof, like witness statements or pictures from the ceremony. You most likely have proof of the home hearth that you might use as proof of why you don’t have the unique marriage certificates. I’m guessing you may have different paperwork, like tax returns or property data should you owned a house collectively, that you might use as further proof.

Generally when you may have an advanced state of affairs, you gained’t get good info by calling Social Safety. There are such a lot of sophisticated guidelines, and it’s unimaginable for one individual to have the appropriate reply for each situation. However you may typically discover the data you want on Social Safety’s web site,

Attempt to discover as a lot info as doable earlier than you name. If what you’re instructed conflicts with official Social Safety info, level out the discrepancy. Ask them to refer you to the precise rule they’re citing. It could even be useful to take notes throughout every cellphone name. Doc the time and date of the cellphone name and the title of the worker you converse with.

Coping with any paperwork generally is a headache. However it appears like you may have a sensible technique for maximizing your Social Safety. Should you do a little bit of prep work, I don’t suppose you’ll encounter any main hurdles in claiming the advantages you’re entitled to.

Robin Hartill is a licensed monetary planner and a senior author at The BaghdadTime. Ship your tough cash inquiries to [email protected].

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