Senior woman scrutinizing her paperwork © iStock

Dear Senior Living Adviser,

My former spouse recently died, and I now have a large increase in my monthly Social Security benefits. He was survived by a 2nd wife. I am wondering why I received an increase but don’t want to ask Social Security about my windfall.

— Sally Surplus

Dear Sally,

You’re known as the “worker’s surviving divorced spouse” when it comes to Social Security benefits. When your ex died, you became eligible for a survivors benefit equal to his monthly Social Security benefit. Your windfall came about because his monthly check was bigger than your monthly check.

It doesn’t matter that your ex remarried. It doesn’t impact the amount of money his widow receives. She’s entitled to a survivors benefit based on his work record, too.

You’d be eligible for the survivors benefit even if you remarried, as long as you didn’t remarry before age 60 (age 50, if disabled).

To get the survivors benefit, you also must have been married to your ex for 10 years or more. If the marriage didn’t last that long, you’d have reason to worry about what would happen when you contacted Social Security. But you should report it because, in that case, keeping the extra money is fraud. Otherwise, you got yourself a raise in retirement. Good for you.

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