When engaging in estate planning, or even long term care planning, with an elder law attorney, it is a good idea to include Social Security Retirement benefit planning.  Why?  For most Americans, Social Security Retirement benefits are an important part, if not all, of their monthly income.  How much a person receives each month from Social Security depends on exactly when retirement occurs, and early retirement can reduce the amount that the retiree receives each month. 

The government allows people as young as 62 to file for Social Security Retirement benefits. In exchange for early benefits, the individual agrees to receive a reduced monthly amount for the rest of his or her life. Social Security Retirement benefits can be reduced by as much as 7% to 8% for each year of filing early. Most of us will come out ahead by waiting until our full retirement age or beyond to file for Social Security Retirement benefits. For example, full retirement age for those born between 1943 and 1954 is 66, while full retirement age is 67 for those born in 1960 or later.  For those born between 1955 and 1960, 2 months must be added each year to determine full retirement age.  So, if you were born in 1956, your full retirement age would be 66 and 4 months.

When doing estate planning or long term care planning, there are two situations in which filing early (between 62 and full retirement age) may be necessary. First, if you have little or no money and are not able to earn much.  You may need your Social Security early so that you have money on which to live.  Second, if you are seriously ill or have a shortened life expectancy due to illness, you may want to file early.  An elder law attorney can help to determine whether filing early for Social Security Retirement benefits makes sense.