Originally Posted by gerntz
Help me out, please.
I thought a surviving spouse could receive a maximum of your FRA benefit, not a greater total benefit you are receiving by having delayed taking you benefit past FRA. Correct/wrong? Thanks.
The surviving spouse will get an adjustement to their benefit, increasing the amount to what the non-surviving spouse currently gets, based upon the benefit of their last day of life:
Widow or widower, full retirement age or older --100 percent of your benefit (not basic) amount, per Survivors Planner: How Much Would Your Survivors Receive?
Of course, if your benefit is higher than your spouse when they pass, there will be no adjustment to your monthly benefit.
You are probably thinking of the rule if you have not yet reached FRA. In that case, the amount will be different. As you can see from the link, there are a lot of different situations that must be covered and can only be confirmed with SS after the fact of the death of a spouse.
This can become confusing, so here another (non-SS site) that addresses your question:
The key paragraph states "What is the survivor benefit? When a spouse dies, the survivor is entitled to receive the greater of his or her own benefit or 100 percent of the spouse’s benefit, including any cost-of-living increases earned along the way. Again, if the higher-earning spouse delays filing until the FRA or beyond, then the surviving spouse’s lifetime benefits will be increased substantially."
This is the technique that I/DW are currently doing. While we can both collect early SS, DW will claim in 18 months, when she reaches FRA age. At that time, I'll claim 50% of her benefit while delaying my SS claim till age 70. Assuming I pass after age 70 and she gets an adjusted benefit based upon my SS for the rest of her life, she will have an SS income close to twice of hers alone, at FRA. Of course, if I die before the age of 70, she will still receive an adjusted amount of my then current SS benefit (collecting or not). At least that's the plan (at least we have one).