If You Are The Survivor
Just as you plan for your family’s protection if you die, you should consider the Social Security benefits that may be available if you are the survivor that is, the spouse, child, or parent of a worker who dies. That person must have worked long enough under Social Security to qualify for benefits.
How Your Spouse Earns Social Security Survivors Benefits
A worker can earn up to four credits each year. In 2021, for example, your spouse can earn one credit for each $1,470 of wages or self-employment income. When your spouse has earned $5,880, they have earned their four credits for the year.
The number of credits needed to provide benefits for survivors depends on the worker’s age when they die. No one needs more than 40 credits to be eligible for any Social Security benefit. But, the younger a person is, the fewer credits they must have for family members to receive survivors benefits.
Benefits can be paid to the worker’s children and the surviving spouse who is caring for the children even if the worker doesn’t have the required number of credits. They can get benefits if the worker has credit for one and one-half years of work in the three years just before their death. Each persons situation is different and you need to talk to a Social Security claims representative about your choices.
What To Do When A Social Security Beneficiary Dies
Social Security payments are made on the third day of each month as payment for the previous month. Thus, a Social Security recipient must have survived the entire month to be entitled to the payment. For example, if a recipient dies on June 24, the payment made on July 3 will have to be returned. Consequently, in most cases the estates of decedents must pay back the Social Security Administration for the last payment received.
The executor, administrator, or next-of-kin should notify the SSA by calling the 800 number for the state in which the deceased resided. If the recipient had her Social Security payment deposited directly into her bank account, the SSA will arrange to withdraw the payment electronically. The bank account must remain open for at least 45 days following notification to the SSA of the death. If the payments were mailed rather than direct-deposited, the SSA will send a letter requesting reimbursement.
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What We Will Ask You
Depending on the information you provide, we may need to ask other questions.
You also should have with you your checkbook or other papers that show your account number at a bank, credit union or other financial institution so you can sign up for Direct Deposit, and avoid worries about lost or stolen checks and mail delays.
How To Apply For Social Security Survivor Benefits
If you think you might be eligible to receive Social Security survivor benefits after the death of a beneficiary, there are some steps youll need to take to apply for them. The first is reporting the death to the Social Security Administration if the funeral home hasnt done that already. You can also begin the application process at the time you report the death.
There are certain documents youll need to apply for Social Security survivor benefits. The documentation requirements depend on whether youre applying for benefits as a widow or widower, as the deceased persons parent, or as the parent of the deceased persons child. Generally, the list includes things such as:
- Proof of the beneficiarys death
- Your birth certificate or other proof of birth
- Proof of citizenship
- Birth certificates for each child for whom youre claiming benefits
- W-2s and tax returns for the deceased beneficiary
- Divorce decree if youre applying as a divorced surviving spouse
The Social Security Administration will accept photocopies of items such as ID cards and tax returns, but youll need to provide original copies of birth certificates, death certificates, and marriage certificates. These can be returned to you once your application for survivor benefits has been processed.
Other Benefits For Survivors
Although the parents retirement benefits cease, there are other forms of benefits for family member survivors, including adult children. The most important of these is Social Security survivor benefits. The goal of the program is to partially replace income that is lost due to old age, the death of a spouse or qualifying ex-spouse, or disability.
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Please Answer A Few Questions To Help Us Determine Your Eligibility
When a disabled person who was receiving Social Security Disability Insurance dies, the money that they were receiving can go to his or her dependents, including a spouse, children, and even elderly dependent parents.
Here are the various categories of relatives who are eligible to receive survivors benefits.
Understanding The Timing Of Social Security Payments
Social Security retirement benefits are paid in the month following the month for which they are due. For example, a seniors January benefit is received in February, Februarys benefit is direct-deposited in March and so on. Its important to understand that the SSA only pays benefits for a specific month if the beneficiary was alive for the entirety of that month.
For instance, if your mom received her SS payment on April 10 and she passes away on April 29, then her estate is allowed to keep that check because it is actually payment for the month of March. However, if her next check is automatically direct-deposited in May, it will need to be returned. This is because that check is for the month of April, and the SSA does not pay benefits for the month of a beneficiarys death.
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How To Enroll For Ssi Benefits
Another step that parents of a disabled adult child may be able to take to ensure their child receives benefits is to get them into the Social Security benefits system while the parents are alive. They may be eligible to receive Supplemental Security Income on the disabled childs behalf. SSI is a monthly payment designed to help needy families, including families raising a child with a disability.
SSI payments are made until the child is 18. After age 18, the disabled child becomes eligible for SSDI benefits as a disabled adult child. Upon the death of the parent, they become eligible for the survivors benefit described above.
If the parent is already on Social Security retirement or disability benefits themselves, they can have their disabled adult child added onto their account as an auxiliary while they are still living. This is by far the most streamlined process for receiving Social Security benefits.
Social Security Benefits: Monthly Survivors Benefits
Family members may also be entitled to monthly survivors benefits. You don’t have to be of retirement age to receive benefits: dependent children, surviving spouses, and even some ex-spouses may be eligible for survivors benefits. The more quickly family members apply for these benefits, the better, because some of them are not retroactive.
Applicants can start the application process over the telephone or online at www.ssa.gov, which may speed things up, but they won’t be able to complete the process without a face-to-face meeting with a staffer at an SSA office. Generally speaking, the following family members may be entitled to monthly survivors benefits.
Surviving spouses. A surviving spouse who is already receiving Social Security benefits based on the deceased person’s earnings just needs to report the death to the SSA at 800-772-1213. The SSA will change monthly benefits to survivors benefits. If the spouse is already getting benefits, the SSA will check to see whether or not the survivors benefit would be higher. The spouse will receive the higher amount.
A surviving spouse who is not already getting benefits or is receiving benefits based on his or her own earnings record will need to apply for survivors benefits. Eligibility for survivors benefits will depend on the survivor’s age and family circumstances. Benefits are given to any surviving spouse who:
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The Effects Of Remarriage
The marital status of your ex-spouse at the time of his or her death has no effect on your ability to receive surviving ex-spouse disability or retirement benefits.
But if you remarry before the age of 60, or before the age 50 if you are disabled, you won’t be able to receive benefits as a surviving ex-spouse. However, if that marriage later ends due to divorce, death, or annulment before the death of your ex-spouse, you would be able to receive surviving ex-spouse benefits as though you never remarried.
If you remarry after you reach 60 years old, or 50 years old if you are disabled, it will have no effect on your ability to receive surviving ex-spouse benefits.
What Can You Spend Social Security Survivor Benefits On
Adults who receive survivor benefits for themselves are not required to account for their expensesthe money is theirs to use for their daily needs. However, if you receive benefits on behalf of a child survivor or someone else who can’t manage their own money, you’ll need to ensure it is used properly. The Social Security Administration requires that the money be spent first for the beneficiary’s food, shelter, and medical needs. Any surplus must be saved in a federally insured, interest-bearing savings account or bond. You’ll need to account for how you use the money by filling out a Representative Payee Report once a year.
How Social Security Survivor Benefits Work
You earn Social Security benefits through working during your lifetime. Your eligibility and the amount of money you receive will depend on the number of credits you accumulate. Youll receive one credit for every $1,360 earned from wages or self-employment income. So, if you make $5,440 in one year, youll get four credits.
To receive Social Security benefits, youll need to have earned at least 40 credits in your lifetime. This means that full- and part-time workers who earn $5,440 or more per year over ten years will eventually earn 40 credits.
The number of credits also determines how much of a benefit youll receive. So the more a person pays into Social Security, the bigger the benefits checks and the bigger the survivor benefits check may be.
What If I Remarry
If you wait until age 60 to remarry , your new civil status wont affect your eligibility for survivor benefits. Again, lots of people leave money on the table by making big life decisions without consulting the Social Security cut-offs. Our advice: dont get remarried at age 59-and-11-months if you can wait until age 60!
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What Benefits Are My Beneficiaries Eligible For After My Death
The Social Security payment you receive your benefit for the previous month. For example, the payment you receive in February is your January benefit.
To earn your benefit, you must live the entire month. In other words, you are not eligible for a benefit in the month you die. If you die on the first day of the month or the last day you will not be eligible for a benefit for that particular month. If you die April 1 you would receive your March benefit later in April and you would be able to keep it. There could be situations where you would receive a benefit for the month you pass but that benefit would have to be returned to the Social Security Administration.
There Are Several Ways The Surviving Spouse May Be Able To Collect Benefits From Social Security It Gets A Little Complicated
By Bethany K. Laurence, Attorney
When the primary breadwinner of a household dies, the surviving family members may be left without sufficient resources, especially if the deceased husband or wife didn’t have life insurance. Fortunately, the surviving spouse of a deceased disabled worker is often eligible to collect what the Social Security Administration calls a survivors benefit.
To be eligible for benefits based on the record of a deceased husband or wife, the spouses must have been married to each other for at least a year. In addition, the deceased spouse must have earned sufficient Social Security credits to be entitled to Social Security disability insurance or Social Security retirement benefits. This article focuses on deceased spouses who were entitled to disability benefits the rules differ a bit when a surviving spouse collects a benefit based on the deceased husband or wife’s retirement benefits.
A surviving divorced spouse that is, a spouse who divorces a husband or wife before the husband or wife dies is also entitled to a survivors benefit in some circumstances.
Minor Or Disabled Child
If you are the unmarried child under 18 of a worker who dies, you can be eligible to receive Social Security survivors benefits.
And you can get benefits at any age if you were disabled before age 22 and remain disabled.
Besides the worker’s natural children, their stepchildren, grandchildren, step grandchildren, or adopted children may receive benefits under certain circumstances.
What Happens If The Deceased Received Monthly Benefits
If the deceased was receiving Social Security benefits, you must return the benefit received for the month of death and any later months.
For example, if the person died in July, you must return the benefits paid in August. How you return the benefits depends on how the deceased received benefits:
- For funds received by direct deposit, contact the bank or other financial institution. Request that any funds received for the month of death or later be returned to Social Security.
- Benefits received by check must be returned to Social Security as soon as possible. Do not cash any checks received for the month in which the person dies or later.
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Social Security Benefits: One
The Social Security death benefit is relatively easy for surviving family members to claim and quick to be paid, but it is currently a small lump-sum payment of $255 . The surviving spouse or dependent children can claim this benefit. This payment is in addition to ongoing survivors benefits to which the spouse or children may be entitled.
Go to the local Social Security office to claim benefits. The staff can help with the paperwork and explain what information and documents — a certified copy of the death certificate, for example — are needed. To find the closest office, check the government listings in the phone book, use the “How to Find Your Local Office” service at www.ssa.gov, or call the SSA, toll-free, at 800-772-1213.
Widow’s Or Widower’s Benefit
If the wife or husband of a disabled spouse was married to the disabled spouse for at least a year before the disabled spouse died and the disabled spouse was receiving or entitled to receive SSDI, the surviving spouse can get benefits in these either of these circumstances:
- The surviving spouse is disabled and between 50 and 60 .
- The surviving spouse is 60 years old or older.
This means that a surviving husband or wife who is younger than 50 and not taking care of minor or disabled children is not eligible for the survivors benefit when the spouse dies. Note that a surviving spouse’s benefits will end, or never start, if the surviving spouse remarries or becomes eligible to receive significantly higher Social Security benefits on her own record.
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Will Social Security Auxiliary Benefits Pay For My Yacht
Nope. The exact monthly payment that you can expect in auxiliary benefits depends on a constellation of factorshow much your spouse made while working, how much you made, how old your spouse was at the time of claiming benefits, how old you are when you claim, whether other people in your family are claiming benefits from the same record, whether you are subject to the Family Maximum Benefit ruleThe list goes on.
One things for certain, though. You cant expect Social Security benefits either primary benefits or auxiliary benefits, to set you up for decades of living off caviar and champagne.
Social Security is a form of enforced savings and insurance designed to keep older folks out of poverty, not make them rich. It should be part of your retirement plan, not all of it.
Our advice? Start thinking about Social Security and other retirement issues earlier rather than later. That way, youll have time to consider your options and discuss them with your family. Taking Social Security benefits early, meaning before full retirement age or before age 70 if you want to take advantage of Delayed Retirement Credits doesnt only reduce your benefits. Remember, it also reduces the survivor benefits that your spouse will be entitled to after you die. If you make a lot more money than your spouse its particularly important for you to work out a Social Security strategy.
What Are Social Security Survivor Benefits
Social Security survivor benefits are payments that are made to eligible survivors of a deceased beneficiary.
Eligible survivors include:
- Widows and widowers age 60 or older
- Surviving divorced spouses
- Widows and widowers of any age who are caring for the deceaseds child who is under age 16 or disabled
- Unmarried children of the deceased who are under 18, or are 18 or over and disabled
- Stepchildren, grandchildren, step-grandchildren, and adopted children
- Parents aged 62 or older who were depending on the deceased for at least half their support
These payments can be made on a monthly basis with amounts based on the benefits the deceased beneficiary was receiving and their relationship to the survivor. Heres an overview of how survivor benefit amounts compare:
- Widows and widowers who are full retirement age or older may receive 100% of the deceased beneficiarys benefit amount.
- Widows and widowers age 60 up to full retirement age can receive 71.5% to 99% of the deceased beneficiarys amount.
- Disabled widows and widowers age 50 to 59 can receive 71.5% of the benefit amount.
- Widows and widowers caring for a child under 16 can receive 75% of the benefit amount.
- Children under age 18 or disabled can receive 75% of the benefit amount.
- Dependent parents aged 62 or older can receive 75% of the benefit amount each or 82.5% if only one parent survives.
Divorced surviving spouses may be eligible to receive the same amounts as widows and widowers.
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