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Estate and Elder Law

Hook Law Center: Making the Most of Your Social Security Benefits

It is well known that timing is an important consideration when applying for Social Security retirement benefits. For example, you may begin receiving retirement benefits as early as age 62, but if you wait until you have reached your full retirement age (determined by your year of birth), or even as late as age 70, the monthly amount of benefits you receive will be greater. It is less commonly known, however, that you can also use timing to maximize your benefits when you are entitled to both survivors ' (widows' and widowers') benefits and retirement benefits. Under the Social Security Act, an individual who is entitled to receive both survivors' and retirement benefits may elect to receive whichever monthly benefit is greater, and may collect survivors' benefits and defer receiving retirement benefits until he reaches his full retirement age, when his retirement benefits will be greater. You may not collect both simultaneously, but if you plan wisely, you can maximize the total amount of benefits you receive over your lifetime.

For example, a 61-year-old widower may be entitled to a small amount of survivor's benefits based on his deceased spouse's work history, and he may also begin receiving retirement benefits based on his own work history at age 62. However, if he waits until he reaches his full retirement age to apply for retirement benefits, his monthly benefit may be up to 25% greater than if he had started collecting benefits at 62.  If he waits even longer -- up until age 70 -- his monthly benefit will be even greater. Assuming he has other sources of income and can afford to live on the small monthly survivor's benefit until he reaches his full retirement age, or even until age 70, it would be wise for him to do so. 

It is a good idea to consider all of your options when applying for Social Security benefits, as careful planning can ensure that you receive the maximum amount from all benefits to which you are entitled. Formulating a plan for collecting benefits involves calculation of the options as well as consideration of other factors such as additional sources of income, liquidity, health and life expectancy. 

The Hook Law Center is happy to assist individuals and families in identifying their options and creating a retirement plan to make the most of their Social Security benefits.  Call us today to make an appointment and learn how to best maximize your benefits.

Hook Law Center has been providing the highest quality of legal advice to the communities of Hampton Roads for more than 80 years. Our practice is dedicated to seniors, and disabled persons, their families and advocates. Our professional staff can respond to our client's care needs on a 24 hour basis, and our Attorneys are available to provide expertise on every issue facing senior citizens from long-term and life care planning to estate and trust issues as well as financial, investment, public benefit, and insurance assistance. Visit their website for more information.


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