An internal government audit has found that Social Security is underpaying many widows and widowers, because it is failing to adequately inform them of their options.
One of the most important and difficult decisions people must make when they are considering retirement is when to start taking Social Security benefits. The longer people delay taking benefits, the more they will receive per month.
To get the maximum amount of lifetime benefits, people need to factor in their life expectancy. This is difficult enough for people who are just having to decide when to take their own benefits. However, it becomes even more difficult for those who might want to draw benefits from someone else's account, such as a widow or widower receiving survivor benefits.
People need to be informed of their options. However, that is not happening in many cases, as Financial Advisor reports in "Social Security Underpaying Widowed Spouses, Report Finds."
The Social Security Administration's Office of Inspector General has determined that widows and widowers are not being informed that they can take survivor benefits, while still delaying their own benefits until they reach the age of 70. This has resulted in underpayments of millions of dollars a year.
People can choose when to start taking the benefits and the Social Security Administration is required to make sure they know their options, so the decision can be an informed one.
It is not always a good idea to rely on the Social Security Administration's information about when you need to start taking benefits to get the most out of them. An elder law attorney can give you the information and offer advice about your best options.
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Reference: Financial Advisor (Feb. 16, 2018) "Social Security Underpaying Widowed Spouses, Report Finds."