Two Spousal Social Security
Under the new law taking effect on April 30th, 2016, a spouse cannot begin receiving benefits until the worker is actually receiving benefits, too. Workers can still file and suspend, but spouses (or other dependents, including minor and disabled children) cannot receive benefits during the suspension. The new law does not affect workers who have already filed and suspended benefits. Workers who are at least 66 or will turn 66 before the effective date of the law may still file and suspend in order to trigger benefits for their spouse.
The law also changes another rule that allows a spouse who takes benefits at full retirement age to choose whether to take spousal benefits or benefits on his or her own record. This strategy – commonly known as “Claim Now, Claim More Later” — allows a higher-earning spouse to claim a spousal benefit at full retirement age. Then at 70, the higher-earning spouse would claim the maximum amount of his or her retirement benefit and stop receiving the spousal benefit.
If you are 62 or older by the end of 2015, you will still be able to choose which benefit you want at your full retirement age. Under the new law, when workers who are not 62 by the end of 2015 apply for spousal benefits, Social Security will assume it is also an application for benefits on the worker’s record. The worker is eligible for the higher benefit, but he or she can’t choose to take just the spousal benefits and allow his or her own benefits to keep increasing until age 70. This new rule does not apply to survivor’s benefits. A surviving spouse will still be able to choose to take survivor’s benefits first and then switch to retirement benefits later if the retirement benefit is larger.
Contact your elder law attorney or financial advisor to determine if you should take any action before the new rules become law. For more information check with the Social Security Administration Office near you.