Social Security Q&A: Can I Collect Survivor’s 23 Years After Maxing Out Children’s Benefits?

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Question: My husband died in 1992 when he was 40 and I was 35. At the time, our triplets were five years old, and I received the maximum family benefit until they graduated from high school, at which time all Social Security benefits ended. I have never remarried and will be 60 in another year. Can I expect any more widows benefits, since I already received the maximum family benefit while the kids were growing up? I haven’t been able to find anything online that addresses my question.

Answer: The maximum family benefit is applied annually, so the fact that you reached the limit in the past doesn’t matter for collecting benefits when you reach 60 or in any year thereafter.

Please note that it may or may not be optimal for you to start taking widows benefits at 60. If you had a low earnings history, maximizing your lifetime benefits may entail taking your retirement benefit starting at 62 and switching to your widows benefit at full retirement age, which, in your case, is age 66 and two months. This will ensure that you’ll receive your largest possible widows benefit. Alternatively, it may be best to take your widows benefit at 60 and your retirement benefit at 70, when it will start at its highest possible value. In either case, you won’t run into the family benefit maximum.


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