Dear Penny: If I Remarry, Will I Lose My Late Husband’s Social Security Benefits?

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Dear Penny,

I’m currently receiving my deceased husband’s Social Security benefits. We were married 30 years when he died. I now have a partner of 14 years. We’ve been discussing getting married. Will I lose the Social Security if I remarry? And if I remarry, could I get Social Security from my second husband if he should die?

— On Bended Knee

Dear Bended,

There are many reasons to get married and many to stay unmarried, and unfortunately, money often weighs into that decision. It’s wise to consider how your legal relationship status could affect your access to resources that are tied to any spouse.

In this case, you can follow your heart! Depending on your age, remarrying won’t compromise your payments.

You might be eligible for three types of Social Security benefits I’ll talk about here:

  • Retirement benefits, those you receive on your own account as the worker who has retired.
  • Survivor’s benefits, those you receive from your deceased spouse’s account.
  • Spouse’s benefits, those you receive when you’re married to a living Social Security beneficiary.
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If you’re 60 years old or older when you remarry (50 if you’re disabled), you’ll still be eligible to receive your survivor’s benefits from your deceased husband’s account.

If your new partner is a Social Security beneficiary, you’d become eligible to draw spouse’s benefits on his account when you marry, and you would be eligible to receive survivor’s benefits if he died. The caveat is that you won’t receive the full amount of both of their benefits at the same time. You’ll receive a combination of the two benefits equal to the higher amount.

The Social Security Administration recommends applying for spouse’s benefits if you remarry. It won’t hurt your survivor’s benefit, and it could mean receiving more money if your partner’s benefits are higher than what you currently receive.

Once you reach age 62, you also have the option to switch from either of their benefits to your own retirement benefits, if you’re eligible to receive them yourself. You get to choose among the benefits you’re eligible for so you receive the highest amount.

Note that if you’re younger than age 60 when you remarry (or 50 if you’re disabled), you can’t receive survivor’s benefits as long as you’re married.

Dana Miranda is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance®, author, speaker and personal finance journalist. She writes Healthy Rich, a newsletter about how capitalism impacts the ways we think, teach and talk about money.