Remarriage Rules for Widows and Widowers

purple spotted flowers by basheertomeThe Social Security Administration has a special way to treat former spouses differently from widows and widowers with regard to benefits when the person in question remarries.  This only affects ex-Spouses while the other partner from the former marriage is still living. When the former spouse dies, the surviving spouse is treated as a widow or widower.


Remarriage Rules for Widows and Widowers

(For brevity I’m going to refer only to widows, but everything applies as well to widowers.) If a widow is under age 60 and remarries (and stays married), she is no longer eligible for her Survivor Benefit based upon her late husband’s record.  After age 60, the widow can remarry and retain access to Survivor Benefits.  This rule applies the same way for a “widow” who was divorced from the decedent, as long as she was married to the ex-spouse for at least 9 months.


Remarriage Rules for Ex-Spouses

If a couple was married for at least 10 years and has been divorced for at least 2 years, she can be eligible for Spousal Benefits based upon her former husband’s record – as long as she remains unmarried.  (As with other examples, the roles could be reversed.)  Her husband must be eligible for benefits (doesn’t have to be taking them) and she must be at least age 62 for early benefits.  The same rules apply as if they were still married, except that he doesn’t have to apply for her to be eligible for the Spousal Benefit.


However – if she marries at any time while he is still alive, she will be ineligible for the spousal benefit while married.  If there is a subsequent second divorce or the second husband dies, her eligibility is restored.  If/When the first husband (or any earlier husband) dies, she becomes eligible for a Survivor’s Benefit as a Widow (see above for remarriage rules for Widows).  She can choose the earlier husband (if she was married more than once) with the highest available benefit for her Spousal and/or Survivor benefit – as long as she met the eligibility (length of marriage) to that former spouse.


Photo by basheertome


IRS CIRCULAR 230 NOTICE: To ensure compliance with requirements imposed by the IRS, we inform you that any U.S. tax advice contained in this communication (or in any attachment) is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, for the purpose of (i) avoiding penalties under the Internal Revenue Code or (ii) promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any transaction or matter addressed in this communication (or in any attachment).

About the author

Jim Blankenship, CFP®, EA

Jim Blankenship is the founder and principal of Blankenship Financial Planning, Ltd., a financial planning firm providing hourly, as-needed financial planning and advice. A financial services professional for over 25 years, Jim is a CFP professional and has earned the Enrolled Agent designation, a designation that qualifies him as enrolled to practice before the IRS. Jim is also a NAPFA-registered financial advisor, which designates him as a Fee-Only Financial Advisor.

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41 Comments

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  • My late husband passed away in 1992 we had 2 children, we were all receiving benefits till I remarried & they were grown, but I’ve been divorced 2 times since his death, I was wondering if I’d still be able to receive widowed disability from him?

    • If you’re not currently married you should be eligible for widow’s benefits. If you are currently married and the marriage occurred before you reached age 60, you are not eligible. If the remarriage occurred after age 60, you are eligible.

  • My late husband passed away in 1992 we had 2 children, we were all receiving benefits till I remarried & they were grown, but I’ve been divorced 2 times since his death, I was wondering if I’d still be able to receive widowed disability from him?

  • My husband were married 30 years & raised 3 children. He died 12 years ago when I was age 47. I remarried but divorced 2 years later. Am I still eligible to draw my widows benefits at age 60?

  • My husband of 38 yrs retired from state of De and eventually passed away. I receive his pension and medical insurance from the state as the surviving widow. If I remarried, would I lose my benefits?

  • Hello Jim. i am a widower of my late U.S air force veterans. i ask if i remarry next year Do i lost my pension? He died 2012 January.

    Hope to hear you soon..

    Thanks and God Bless..

  • My boyfriend is 54 and his wife died in 2006. Their son is 14 years old. My boyfriend tells me that if we get married, he will lose his son’s survivor benefits. I say that he is wrong, and he would still get the benefit. Who is right?

  • My husband died in nineteen he would have been 63 today if he was still alive I never remarried and I’m 53 can I collect his Social Security benefits

  • I’m widowed and in my 70’s if I marry a man in his 70’s that is also windowed will our SS change are can I keep drawing from my deceased husband?

  • I was married to my husband for 44 years when he passed away. I was 62 when he died and I started drawing his SS. If I marry again, will my benefits be the same or will the amount I receive change?

  • My husband is deceased ,he was receiving a pension from a county job. I am now receivind his pension. I am 60 yrs old, if I re married would I lose this.benefit. Do i still qualify for survivors benefits from his social security, in the state of N.M.?

    • If your husband was eligible for a Social Security benefit you may be eligible for a widow’s benefit. If you’re already 60 years of age you can remarry and that will not impact your eligibility for the Social Security widow’s benefit.

      I don’t have any idea how the county pension would work in the case of your remarriage.

  • I am on widows disability. Iam age 59. I would like to know if I lose my disability check if I get married again. Thank u for a response .

    • I only know that you would not be eligible for Social Security widow’s benefits if you remarry before age 60. You must be on another type of widow’s benefits because SS benefits are not available until you reach age 60.

  • Hello, my Aunt is a widow in her late 40’s she has two minor children …she receives ssi for all 3 of them. If she remarries will she lose her benefits? And the kids? Will they lose theirs too?

    • I believe she will continue to receive the benefit until the last child is 16 years of age. The children definitely will continue to receive the benefit until they reach age 18 or 19 if still a high school student.

      She should check with SSA about whether or not her survivor benefit would continue to be paid if she remarries.

  • I receive a disability check and receive widows benefits from ex, deceased husband. I receive only half of his social security because he was married at the time of his death. Shouldn’t I get it all? She’s still working and not drawing it yet.

  • Hello Jim, quick question about 401K here: my ex-husband left his 401K to his parents as beneficiaries (we’ve been divorced for 5 years and were married for 10). I’ve been remarried for two years. Our DD said that I should get my half of the coverture fraction of the 401K if he dies. Should his beneficiaries get the 401K or should I? Thanks much.

    • I believe ERISA law requires that the spouse must sign off on any changes to beneficiaries. If you signed off on this change at some point in the past then I think you’re out of luck.

      It’s all conjecture on my part and can’t be relied upon to resolve the situation, an attorney will need to work this out for you.

      jb

  • I have a Lady Friend who is getting remarried and has been receiving her Husband that is deceased 401k benefits will she lose this?

  • Jan, that’s a question for the insurance company. If I had to guess though, I’d say that he probably would lose that benefit upon remarriage, but I don’t have any facts to back that up.

    Sorry I couldn’t be of more help.

    jb

  • Hello Jim, If I marry a widower will he lose the health insurance he received from his deceased wife’s insurance? He is over the age of 60.

  • I’m a widow that is disabled, I receive my deceased husbands widow SS and I get SS disability. My question is I want to re marry and my fiancé is also a widower but age 57 will he lose or I lose our deceased spouses benefits if we marry now?

  • Marilyn –

    Since you’re receiving SS checks based upon your late husband’s record I can assume that you’re better than age 60. So a remarriage at this point will not impact your receipt of the Survivor Benefit.

    Hope this helps.

    jb

  • Hello Jim — My question is: I am a widow currently receiving my late husband’s S.S. benefit checks. If I remarry, will I lose these benefits? Also, will I be able to receive any benefits based on my previous employment income? His check was the larger, which is why I chose those benefits. Thanks – hope to hear from you soon. Marilyn

  • Hello Bertha –

    If you were married for at least 10 years you should be eligible for Survivor Benefits upon his death if you’re at least age 60, or Spousal Benefits (if they’re more than your own) as early as age 62.

    jb

  • my ex huband and i have been divorced 21yrs he married a second time and was married 5yrs. can i get surviver benefits when he dies

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