Although best-known for its monthly payments to retirees, Social Security actually pays out several different types of benefits, as its official name, Old Age, Survivor and Disability Insurance (OASDI). If you are eligible to receive Social Security benefits at retirement, your spouse or dependent may be eligible for survivor benefits in the event of your death. But as is the case with many federal programs, the rules can be complicated.
- If you are eligible to collect Social Security when you retire, your family members may be eligible for survivor benefits after your death.
- Survivor benefits are available to widows and widowers, minor children, children with major disabilities and dependent parents of the deceased.
- Stepchildren, grandchildren, step-grandchildren, or adopted children can sometimes collect benefits.
- The amount of benefit is based on the survivor’s relationship with the deceased and other factors.
Who Qualifies for Social Security Survivor Benefits?
Monthly survivor benefits are available for certain family members, including:
- A widow(er) age 60 or older (age 50 or older if they are disabled) who has not remarried
- Widow(er) of any age who is caring for a child(s) of a deceased person under 16 years of age or disabled
- An unmarried child of the deceased who is under the age of 18 (or up to the age of 19 if a full-time student in an elementary or secondary school), or is 18 years of age or older with a disability that began before the age of 22 Is
- Step-child, grandchild, step-grandson, or adopted child in certain circumstances
- parents, age 62 or older, who were dependent on the deceased for at least half of their income and whose own Social Security benefit would be no greater than that of the deceased child
- A surviving divorced spouse, if they meet other eligibility requirements
Your surviving spouse may be paid a one-time death benefit of $255 if they were living with you or if you were living separately and your spouse was receiving certain Social Security benefits on your record. In cases where there is no surviving spouse, a lump sum payment can be made to the child who is eligible for benefits on the record of the deceased in the month of death.
How are Social Security survivor benefits calculated?
First, you’ll have to work a certain number of years and collect the requisite number of “credits” each year for your loved ones to be eligible for benefits—which you’ll have to do yourself to be eligible. For the year 2021, you receive one credit for every $1,470, up to $5,880, for a total of four credits in a year. In 2022, this adds up to $6,040 for every $1,510 you earn.
The exact number of family members credits you need to be eligible for survivor benefits depends on your age at the time of your death. The younger you are, the less credit you will need, but you will need a maximum of 40 credits. For most people, earning the required amount requires working for at least 10 years and paying Social Security taxes.
However, if your spouse has dependent children because of your death, a special provision allows them to pay benefits if you took six credits (which takes about 1.5 years) within the three calendar years before your death. or earned more.
As with regular retirement benefits, the amount of survivor benefits your family receives is based on your average lifetime income. The more you earned, the higher the profit, up to a certain maximum.
The amount of the benefit is based on how much the deceased would have accumulated at full retirement age if he was still alive. But if you began collecting benefits before your full or “normal” retirement age, which resulted in a reduction in payments, any benefits paid to surviving members of your family would be based on that reduced amount. In addition, the age at which your spouse or dependents begin collecting will affect the size of their benefits.
If you start collecting Social Security benefits before you reach normal retirement age, not only will you get less benefits, but after your death, your surviving spouse will.
How big are the benefits?
Benefits also vary according to the survivor’s relationship with the deceased and the age at which they begin receiving benefits.
benefits for spouse
A widow or widower who has reached her full retirement age can receive 100% of the deceased’s benefit. A widow or widower who is between 60 years and full retirement age can receive 71.5% to 99% of that benefit. A disabled widow or widower, aged 50 to 59, can get 71.5%. A widow or widower of any age taking care of a child under the age of 16 may receive 75%. Divorced spouses, if they qualify, can receive the same percentage as widows and widowers.
Benefits for children and others
Children under the age of 18 (or 19, if still attending elementary or secondary school) and dependent children with disabilities can receive 75% of the deceased’s benefit. A surviving dependent parent can receive 82.5% of the benefit; If two dependent parents survive, they are eligible to deposit 75% each.
How can the surviving spouse maximize their benefits?
As mentioned above, the surviving spouse (except for people with disabilities or who are caring for an eligible child) is eligible to receive benefits at the age of 60 years. Still, they have to wait until their full retirement age to get the maximum 100. % Benefit.
If you are already receiving retirement benefits
Those who are already being paid retirement benefits can apply for benefits as widow or widower only if the current retirement benefit to be received is less than the survivor benefit. In other words, they will pay you the higher of the two benefits. However, both the benefits cannot be clubbed together and taken at the same time.
If you haven’t applied for retirement benefits yet
Spouses who are eligible for both survivor benefits and retirement benefits based on their own work record can maximize their total benefits by placing them in the most advantageous order. The Social Security Administration explains how it works:
If you’re also eligible for retirement benefits (but haven’t applied yet), you have an additional option. You can apply for retirement or survivor benefits now and switch to other (higher) benefits at a later date.
The right sequence for you will depend on the size of each profit. If both payments are currently the same, it may be best to take survivor benefits at age 60. It’s being reduced because you’re taking it early, but you can collect that benefit from age 60 until age 70, while your own retirement benefit continues to increase. You can then collect your own benefit starting at age 70 when it reaches a maximum.
Conversely, if your own benefit is smaller than the survivor benefit (and will be at age 70), you can take your own (reduced) benefit at age 62, which is the initial Age for which you are eligible. Then, at age 66, you can switch to survivor benefits. However, the survivor benefit would be reduced if it was taken early or before full retirement age.
Please contact the Social Security Administration to discuss which benefits to take before applying for any benefits. Ideally, you want to make sure you’re choosing the option that best suits your financial circumstances by considering all variables, which may include your age, the age of your deceased spouse, and your eligible benefits. That includes both survivor and your retirement benefits.
Eligible for benefits in the last 12 months
There is an exception for those who have recently applied for retirement benefits. If you became entitled to retirement benefits less than 12 months ago, you may be allowed to withdraw your retirement application and apply for survivor benefits only. You can reapply for your retirement benefits later, when the benefits are higher.
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