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Social Security benefits available for same sex couples

In 1935, Congress passed the Social Security Act to ensure that workers in the U.S. have a guaranteed source of income when they retire. Even though Social Security was never meant to serve as the only means of support during retirement, it has become an important resource for many seniors and the backbone of many estate plans.

Up until recently, however, same sex couples married under the laws of individual states were not eligible to receive important Social Security spousal benefits. Fortunately, with the U.S. Supreme Court finding the Defense of Marriage Act to be unconstitutional earlier this year, the Social Security Administration has now begun processing retirement benefit applications for same sex couples and making payments when necessary. Married same sex couples should take steps to maximize their Social Security benefits and develop a personalized estate plan, even if they do not plan to retire for several years.

Many people may not realize it, but Social Security provides important benefits to families when a worker retires or passes away. For example, one of the prime goals of Social Security is to ensure that families remain financially secure after losing a loved one. For this reason, a surviving spouse is eligible to receive benefits owed to his deceased spouse when he reaches retirement age or if he is raising his deceased spouse’s child. According to the SSA, a surviving spouse receives, on average, $1,184 each month. These sorts of spousal benefits are even available for spouses who have been divorced, provided they were married for at least 10 years.

Although Social Security retirement benefits play a large role in many couple’s estate plans, far too few take the time to familiarize themselves with the ways in which the program can help them plan for the future. For example, in some circumstances, it may make sense for one spouse to file for retirement benefits and then to defer receipt of payment for several years. Something as simple as this could, in some cases, result in a couple having tens of thousands of extra dollars for retirement.

Social Security is, of course, a complex federal program and one that can be confusing to navigate. Couples should consider speaking to an experienced estate planning attorney, who can explain their options and help them ensure that their estate plan is designed to provide the greatest benefit for them and their loved ones. For more information, contact an attorney today.