Dear Liz: I know that if my spouse exceeds my Social Security benefits, I can receive up to half of that amount. I plan to delay starting Social Security until age 70.
Will my spouse receive half of my benefits at my full retirement age (66 years and 2 months), or will he receive half of my (admittedly higher) benefits at age 70? Will I receive it?
answer: former. Spousal benefits do not provide a delayed retirement credit, which increases your own benefits by 8% each year from your full retirement age until age 70.
Survivor benefits are another matter. If you die first, your wife is eligible to receive up to 100% of your benefits, including any delayed retirement benefits you earned.
Home ownership in community property states
Dear Liz: I live in California and have been married for 20 years. My spouse purchased the home before we got married, but my name is not listed as a joint owner.
However, I am responsible for most of my monthly financial obligations, including payments such as the mortgage and property taxes. If we die or separate, how much of our current home equity will we be entitled to? This is our only primary home.
answer: Generally, assets purchased before the marriage are considered separate property even in community property states such as California. However, if the mortgage is paid off with “community funds” (money earned by either spouse during the marriage), the spouse not on the title will receive a portion of the assessed value that accrues after the wedding. There may be rights.
However, it may not protect you from being evicted if your spouse dies or having to fight an expensive battle in court if you divorce. You can better prepare for either possibility by consulting an attorney now.
Liz Weston is a certified financial planner and personal finance columnist in the United States. Nerd wallet. Questions can be directed to 3940 Laurel Canyon, No. 238, Studio City, CA 91604 or by using the “Contact” form below. askweston.com.