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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