The 3 Most Surprising Social Security Benefits You Can Get

Social Security provides a key financial lifeline for the majority of U.S. retirees, but it's not always easy to navigate all of its rules and requirements. With many obscure provisions that aren't easy to find, it can be easy to leave little-known benefits on the table unclaimed.

Once you know what Social Security benefits you're supposed to get, you can follow up and claim them. Below are three often-neglected provisions that many Social Security participants are surprised to discover.

1. Benefits for ex-spouses

One of the most confusing set of rules in the Social Security world deals with divorced couples and Social Security benefits. In general, if you were married for 10 years or more and then divorced, then you can collect spousal or survivor benefits on an ex-spouse's work history. But if you cut the knot before hitting your 10th anniversary, then you're out of luck.

Where things get complicated is when it comes to remarriage. If your ex is still living, then ex-spousal benefits are only available if you haven't remarried. Note that you can still get benefits if you're single, even if your ex remarried. But there's an even bigger wrinkle here: If you remarry, but that subsequent marriage ends due to death or divorce, then you once again become eligible to claim benefits based on your first ex-spouse's work history.

If your ex has passed away, then survivor benefits have even more complicated rules. If you remarried before turning 60, then remarriage again takes away the right to survivor benefits on an ex's work history. But those who wait until 60 or older before remarrying don't lose their rights to survivor benefits. That can create some odd windfall opportunities, so make sure you know about them.

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