At age 62 or older, a spouse of an individual who is already receiving, or is eligible for, retirement or disability benefits may apply online for Social Security retirement and spouse’s benefits, states the Social Security Administration. At the time the spouse applies, the Social Security Administration checks for her eligibility for spousal benefits and automatically requests them upon eligibility verification.
Waiting until full retirement age to request Social Security may maximize both spouses’ retirement income, explains Kiplinger. For example, in 2013, if the husband was the higher wage earner and eligible for a full benefit amount, and the wife was eligible for a $600 benefit of her own, the wife also was eligible for $400 in spousal benefits, if both spouses waited until the full retirement age of 66 to collect. However, if the wife requests Social Security benefits at the early retirement age of 62, her benefit is reduced to $450, although the spousal benefit she receives remains the same. Delaying to age 70 could yield an additional 8 percent added to an individual maximum Social Security retirement benefit.
For a wife to receive a deceased spouse’s benefits, the couple must have been married for at least nine months prior to her husband’s death, although there are exceptions to this general rule, reports Bankrate.