What to Know About Social Security Survivors Benefits


Social Security survivors benefits are not something many people enjoy talking about, but it’s still important to learn about them. Any loss of a family member can be devastating, not only emotionally but also financially. It can be comforting to know, however, that members of your family may be eligible for survivors benefits after your death.

Any loss of a family member can be devastating, not only emotionally but also financially. It can be comforting to know, however, that members of your family may be eligible for survivors benefits after your death.The family members who are eligible for survivors benefits include:

Your Widow or Widower

Your surviving spouse may be eligible for full benefits at their full retirement age (see this planner for specifics). Reduced benefits are available earlier, and if the survivor is disabled, benefits may begin as early as age 50. If the widow or widower takes care of your child who’s receiving Social Security benefits, and if the child is age 16 or younger or disabled, the spouse can receive benefits at any age.

“Take the time in advance to look at the different strategies and understand what claiming early will do to your surviving spouse. If the higher earner claims early, chances are, the surviving spouse will be forced to leave money on the table,” says Vice President Roberta Eckert of Nationwide Retirement Institute.

Your Unmarried Children

If you have surviving children who are single and younger than age 18 (or up to 19 if they’re a full-time student), they may be eligible for survivors benefits. In addition, children can get benefits at any age if they were disabled before age 22 and remain disabled.

Your Dependent Parents

If your parents are still living, they will qualify for benefits at age 62 or older.

Your Former Spouse(s)

If you’re divorced, but your marriage lasted for 10 years or longer and your former spouse is age 60 or older (age 50-59 if disabled), they qualify for benefits. The 10-years-or-longer rule doesn’t apply, however, if the former wife or husband is currently caring for your child who’s under 16 and disabled.

Under certain circumstances, benefits may also apply to stepchildren, grandchildren, step-grandchildren or adopted children.

Social Security taxes are taken out of each paycheck so that you earn credits toward Social Security benefits. How long you need to work to be eligible for Social Security survivors benefits depends on how old you are when you die.

The same goes for the cost of survivors benefits (it depends on your lifetime earnings) as well as for how much the receiver will get (it depends on the salary of the person who died — the more paid, the greater the benefits). You’ll be able to find an estimated amount of survivors benefits on your Social Security statement. The limit of benefits Social Security can pay each month varies between 150 and 180 percent of the deceased worker’s benefit amount.

Some things, such as pensions, can affect what’s covered by Social Security. Although a work pension for which you paid Social Security taxes won’t affect your benefits, the benefits may be reduced for a work pension that’s not covered by Social Security. In addition, benefits could be reduced if you work while receiving survivors benefits and are under full retirement age. Also, typically you won’t get a widow’s or widower’s benefits if you remarry before age 60. But remarriage after age 60 (or age 50 if you’re disabled) won’t affect your getting benefits based on your ex-spouse’s work. And at age 62 or older, you may get benefits on your new spouse’s work, if those benefits would be higher.

If you disagree with a decision made on your claim, you can always appeal it. To learn more, visit this link.

 

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