Until the recent United States Supreme Court ruling to recognize gay marriage, same-sex couples faced challenges when approaching Social Security. The new bill changes that. Social Security attorney Jeff Scholnick, provides five key points that every same-sex couple should know following the recent law change.
By recent Supreme Court ruling, states are now required to allow same-sex marriage and to recognize those marriages when they occur in other states. This opens the door to many changes for gay married couples, including Social Security. Gay married couples can now tap into spousal and survivor benefits, which are considered to be among the valuable features of the program itself.
This is an exciting time as the new bill redefines marriage in our country. However, same-sex couples may now be as confused as heterosexual couples when it comes to Social Security and how it works. Listed below are five essential items everyone should know.
- You can be provided for, even after the death of a spouse.
Although there are certain guidelines in claiming survivor benefits, understand that if your spouse dies, you can still claim Social Security benefits based on their working record instead of your own. In theory, if your spouse had earned more income than you did, you may be eligible to receive their higher earned benefit for the rest of your life.
Keep in mind this will not be possible if you claimed Social Security as two single individuals. If you and your spouse earn about the same, the impact of this benefit will be slight.
- Divorce beats never marrying.
If you are divorced, you can still collect benefits from the work record of your ex. If you take this route, it will not impact how much the present spouse collects. Keep in mind this will only make an impact if you are single. Once remarriage occurs, this option disappears. To receive benefits as an ex-spouse, your marriage must have lasted at least 10 years.
- Opposite-sex couples may still receive more than same-sex couples.
It is estimated that the value of spousal and survivor benefits is larger among heterosexual couples due to the statistical age gap among spouses in opposite-sex marriages. The age differences increase the potential value of marriage benefits, especially among survivors. According to the Society of Actuaries, women outlive men more than 11 years on average. Therefore, survivor benefits are enormously important to them.
- It pays to be married – literally.
At your full retirement age, your benefit as a spouse can be equal to one-half of your spouse’s full retirement amount. Claiming benefits as a married couple rather than two single individuals can increase additional lifetime benefits significantly. In some cases, benefits are increased by $100,000 or more.
- Social Security benefits trickle down.
If a principal earner is eligible for benefits, in addition to paying retirement benefits for the retired worker, it may provide benefits to the worker’s spouse, an ex-spouse if the marriage lasted 10 years, and dependent children and grandchildren, depending on circumstances of course. Moreover, these benefits can be paid all at once.
Although these five considerations may help you navigate Social Security benefits easier, it is still very important to have an experienced professional at your side during this time. For more information regarding Social Security for same-sex couples, contact experienced Social Security attorney Jeff Scholnick in Maryland today.