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If the first to die is the one who received the smaller SS payments, the remaining spouse continues to receive the same benefits as always, and the payments to the second spouse cease. If the spouse with the larger payments dies first, the second spouse gives up his/her own benefits and assumes the benefits of the deceased spouse. I believe you have to have been married for a certain period of time (10 years??) to be able to do this.

Both my aunt and my mother-in-law never worked. After their husbands died, they received their husband's payents instead of the half-of-his they had been receiving. In the case of my parents, my mother's benefit was larger than my father's; she died first, and after that, he received a benefit equal to the one she had been entitled to, and his previous benefit ended. In each case, the new benefits did not come automatically, but had to be applied for.
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