Social Security spousal benefits are hers, not his

Michelle: My sister, age 79, has always had her Social Security benefit checks deposited to her husband’s account. Now that she is separated from him, she would like her benefit check sent to her directly. Her husband told her that years ago he opted for a larger benefit payment each month in exchange for a shorter period of benefits. He said that the last benefit check had just been issued that that there would be no more checks. Is he blowing smoke, or could he be telling her the truth?

Phil Moeller: He is blowing smoke — very thick and misleading smoke!
Your sister’s benefits are hers — not her ex-husband’s. Once she claimed benefits (even if her ex- did this for her), they will last the rest of her life. She should call Social Security right away and instruct them to move her benefits into her own bank account. She should have documents proving her marriage and divorce.

While she’s at it, she also should ask Social Security how large an ex-spousal benefit she would receive. If her ex- earned a lot more than she did, this benefit might be larger than her own. Please let me know how things turn out. I know that many readers are rooting for your sister to get what’s hers.