Social Security spousal benefits and survivor benefits appear very similar on the surface. Both programs provide benefits to an individual based solely on their spouse’s work history. But scratch a little deeper and one finds a tangle of regulations and features that are just different enough to cause headaches for planners.
The name of the Social Security program that provides the benefits, Old Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance (OASDI), hints that the retirement program provides different benefits for spouses and survivors. Spousal benefits are based on a living or ex-spouse’s work history. Survivor benefits are based on a dead or ex-spouse’s work history.
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