If I don’t remarry, what benefits will I get when my ex dies?

March 15, 2021

Q. I have been divorced for 15 years and I’m not planning to get married any time soon. My ex-husband remarried 30 days after our divorce was final and has been married to her as long as we have been divorced. If I never remarry, am I entitled to his money when he retires or if I retire before him? If he were to pass away, am I entitled to any of his earnings?

— Divorced

A. There are several issues here.

If you were married to him for at least 10 years, and have not remarried as you say, you are entitled to half of his Social Security once both he and you are at retirement age.

Depending upon his age, he would have the maximum benefit at either age 66 or 67, said Jody D’Agostini, a certified financial planner with Equitable Advisors/The Falcon Financial Group in Morristown.

If he claims earlier than his “full retirement age,” you would be getting half the reduced amount, she said.

“If you have worked at least 10 years or 40 quarters, then you would have your own Social Security benefit as early as age 62,” she said. “You would have deferred credits averaging 8% a year until you’ve attained age 70. You would be able to claim the higher of these two amounts; one half of his, or your full amount.

As for the rest of his assets, it depends.

If you were named as a beneficiary on any IRA, 401(k), annuity or life insurance of any other retirement plan, and he neglected to change the beneficiary from you after the divorce and passed away, then the beneficiary would still be you per the contract, D’Agostini said.

She said changing the beneficiary designation on accounts after a divorce is often overlooked.

In terms of his other assets, your divorce agreement would dictate if there are other assets that are supposed to go to you upon his death, she said.

“I would doubt that most assets were not addressed specifically and transferred or split at the time of divorce,” D’Agostini said.

Email your questions to Ask@NJMoneyHelp.com.

Karin Price Mueller writes the Bamboozled column for NJ Advance Media and is the founder of NJMoneyHelp.com. Follow NJMoneyHelp on Twitter @NJMoneyHelp. Find NJMoneyHelp on Facebook. Sign up for NJMoneyHelp.com’s weekly e-newsletter.