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Social Security Mailbox

Does a Widow Lose Benefits If She Remarries?

What survivors get often depends on age

Q. My husband of 30 years passed away in 2008, and I began drawing his Social Security benefits when I turned 60 last year. People have told me that if I remarry at some point I will have to give up my husband's benefits, which are a lot more than mine would be. Is this true?

A. No, it's not true, because you are already 60 years old. Widows or widowers cannot get survivor benefits if they remarry before the age of 60 (unless that marriage ends). But if you remarry after age 60 (or age 50 if you have disabilities), you can continue to receive benefits based on the work record of your late spouse.

See also: Social Security benefits crucial for minorities, women.

Also, a year after you remarry, you may be eligible for benefits based on your new spouse's work record — if those benefits are higher than what you are then receiving.

For more information, go to "Survivors Benefits" on the Social Security website or see "Social Security Survivor Benefits," one of many answers to your questions in the Social Security Mailbox archives.

You can also go to "Widows, Widowers and Other Survivors" on the Social Security website.

Q. When the male head of a household dies, does the amount of Social Security income for his wife change?

A. Yes. But the amount depends on the wife's age at the time.

Widows and widowers who have reached full retirement age generally receive 100 percent of their spouse's benefit.

If his wife is between 60 and her full retirement age, she can receive reduced benefits — that's about 71.5 percent to 99 percent of his benefit. The closer she is to her full retirement age, the more she gets.

She also can take reduced benefits as early as 50, if she has disabilities.

Stan Hinden, a former columnist for the Washington Post, wrote How to Retire Happy: The 12 Most Important Decisions You Must Make Before You Retire. Check out the archive. If you don't find your answer there, send a query. Have a question for the Social Security Mailbox?

You may also like: Social Security benefits for working widow. >>

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