Monday, May 16, 2022

Does Surviving Spouse Get Social Security

Don't Miss

Ask Larry: What Survivor Benefits Could My Wife And Kids Get Based On My Social Security Record

Social Security Survivor Benefits: Claiming based on a deceased spouse or ex-spouse

Ask Larry

Economic Security Planning, Inc.

Today’s column addresses questions about potential survivor’s benefits available to spouses and children based on a worker’s record, how disability benefits are calculated and the availability of benefits based on an ex’s record. Larry Kotlikoff is a Professor of Economics at Boston University and the founder and president of Economic Security Planning, Inc, which markets Maximize My Social Security and MaxiFi Planner.

Have Social Security questions of your own youd like answered? Ask Larry about Social Security here.

What Social Security Survivor Benefits Could My Wife And Kids Get Based On My Record?

Hi Larry, I am fortunately not in ill health but am just doing some contingency planning. My wife and I have two children, 8 and 10, and we both work though I am the higher earner by a fairly significant amount. I’ve earned at or near the maximum taxable by Social Security for the last decade and still relatively high before then. If I were to pass away, what types of survivor benefits could my wife and children receive? Thanks, Evan

Hi Evan, That depends on your wife and children’s ages at the time of your death. Children can potentially receive survivor benefits from a parent’s Social Security account if they’re either under 18, or 18 to 19 and attending high school, or at any age if they’re unmarried and they became disabled prior to 22.

Can I Do Anything To Receive A Larger Benefit?

Will My Surviving Spouse Receive My Ssdi Benefits

Many people receive monthly disability benefits, Social Security Disability Insurance benefits for example. Sometimes awards are based on the applicants terminal illness. Since disability benefits offer much-needed support to the families of disabled people, its natural to wonder whether your surviving spouse will receive your SSDI benefits after you are gone.

Divorced Spouse’s Survivors Benefit

If the disabled worker was receiving or entitled to receive SSDI, a surviving divorced spouse is entitled to SSDI benefits if she is 6o years or older, 50 years or older and disabled, or caring for her deceased ex-husband’s minor or disabled child. For more information, see our article on survivor benefits.

Recommended Reading: How Can I Calculate What My Social Security Will Be

Survivors Benefits If You Have Children

If your spouse dies and you have children with them under the age of 16, then , you can receive up to 75% of your spouses benefit. Similarly, if your spouse has children under 16 by a previous marriage, that spouse may receive up to 75% of your spouses benefit. Also, each child, up to the age of 18, or 19 if still in secondary school or disabledmay also receive up to 75%.

The maximum a family can receive is up to 180% of the workers PIA. If ex-spouses receive benefits, it does not in any way impact the amount a current spouse will receive . However, if you qualify because you have the workers child in your care, your benefit will affect the amount of the benefits of others on the workers record.

If a spouse or former spouse is not caring for the children of the deceased worker, they may still apply for benefits on their own, if they are at least 60 .

Who Qualifies For Social Security Spousal Benefits

How Social Security Works

If your spouse has filed for Social Security benefits, you can also collect benefits based on the spouse’s work record, if:

  • You are at least 62 years old.
  • Regardless of your age, if you care for a child who is entitled to receive benefits on your spouses record, and who is under age 16 or disabled.

When you apply for spousal benefits, you will also be applying for benefits based on your own work history. If you’re eligible for benefits based on your own earnings, and that benefit amount is higher than your spousal benefit, that’s what you’ll get. If it is lower, you’ll get the spousal benefit.

Also Check: How Do I Apply For Social Security Disability Online

When Can A Survivor Collect Social Security Benefits

According to the SSA, survivors may be able to begin collecting benefits as soon as the month that the beneficiary dies. Its important to apply for the benefits immediately, too, as the SSA points out that some benefits may not be retroactive. So, for example, if you wait for three months, those last three checks could be unable to be claimed.

Social Security Continues To Underpay Surviving Spouses



You simply cant rely on the Social Security Administration to help determine the right benefits for you, especially if youre a widow or widower.

Whats even worse, is the SSA has been told about the problem for years and apparently hasnt been able to correct it.

Heres the background.

When a spouse passes away, the surviving spouse generally has two Social Security benefit options. The surviving spouse can choose to receive his or her retirement benefits or the survivor benefits based on the deceased spouses work record. Generally, the survivor benefits are the same amount the deceased spouse was receiving or would have been entitled to at the time of death.

Whats more, the surviving spouse can choose to receive one type of benefit now and switch to the other in the future. This can be beneficial when one of the benefits will increase if the claim is delayed for a few years.

When an individual files for or is receiving Social Security benefits, the SSA is supposed to investigate all the types of benefits to which the individual is entitled or potentially entitled. Then, the beneficiary is supposed to be told when higher benefits might be available.

In 2018 I told my readers about a report issued by the Office of the Inspector General of the SSA . The report found that SSA consistently failed to inform a high percentage of widows and widowers that they might be entitled to a higher benefit than the one they were receiving.

Read Also: What Is The Number To The Social Security Building

Chapter : Who Is Eligible For Survivor Benefits From Social Security

  • A widow or widower age 60 or older who was and did not remarry before age 60
  • A surviving divorced spouse who was married to the deceased for at least 10 years
  • A widow or widower of any age caring for the deceaseds child who is under 16 or disabled and receiving benefits on their record
  • An unmarried child of the deceased who is: younger than age 18 or age 18 or older with a disability that began before 22
  • Parents of the deceased worker who are 1) at least 62 2) were dependent on the deceased for at least half of their income, and 3) whose own Social Security benefit is not larger than that of their deceased child

Did you Know?

If you were married to the deceased for at least9 months, you could be eligible for survivors benefits.

Talk To A Disability Lawyer

Social Security Survivors Benefit for Spouse and Child How Much Money Do You Get

Need a lawyer? Start here.

  • Briefly tell us about your case
  • Provide your contact information
  • Trade
  • Self-help services may not be permitted in all states. The information provided on this site is not legal advice, does not constitute a lawyer referral service, and no attorney-client or confidential relationship is or will be formed by use of the site. The attorney listings on this site are paid attorney advertising. In some states, the information on this website may be considered a lawyer referral service. Please reference the Terms of Use and the Supplemental Terms for specific information related to your state. Your use of this website constitutes acceptance of the Terms of Use, Supplemental Terms, Privacy Policy and Cookie Policy. Do Not Sell My Personal Information

    Read Also: Making An Appointment At Social Security Office

    Chapter : What Are Survivor Benefits

    While many people associate Social Security benefits with payouts to retired workers, the Social Security Administration in fact distributes several different kinds of beneifts. These include both benefits for the families of a deceased worker, as well as benefits for people who are disabled and so unable to work.

    Social Security survivor benefits provide an important source of income for family members whose workers have passed away. As long as the deceased worker would have been eligible to collect Social Security benefits upon their retirement, their family members will be able to collect them in their stead.

    Did you Know?

    If the deceased worker would have been eligible to collect Social Security benefits upon their retirement, their family may be able to collect them in their stead.

    How To Qualify For Spousal Benefits

    Whether youre currently married or divorced determines how you can qualify for spousal benefits.

    You can qualify for spousal benefits if you meet all of these requirements:

    • Your spouse is already receiving retirement benefits.
    • You have been married for at least one year.
    • You are at least 62 years old, or you are caring for a child who is under age 16 or disabled.


    If you are divorced, you can receive Social Security spousal benefits based on your ex-spouses earnings record if you meet all of these requirements:

    • You were married for at least 10 years.
    • You never remarried.
    • You are age 62 or older.
    • Your ex-spouse is entitled to Social Security retirement or disability benefits.
    • The benefit that you would receive would be more than what youd get based on your own work record.

    Note: Its not necessary for your ex to be taking his or her benefits for you to receive spousal benefits, but if he or she isnt, there is one additional requirement to qualify for spousal benefits. In this case, you must have been divorced for at least two years.

    Don’t Miss: How Much Tax Will I Pay On Social Security

    If You Haven’t Applied For Retirement Benefits Yet

    Spouses who are eligible for both the survivor benefit and the retirement benefit based on their own work record, can maximize their total benefits by taking them in the most advantageous order. The Social Security Administration explains how this works:

    If you are also eligible for retirement benefits , you have an additional option. You can apply for retirement or survivors benefits now and switch to the other benefit at a later date.

    The right order for you will depend on the size of each benefit. If both payouts currently are about the same, it may be best to take the survivor benefit at age 60. It’s going to be reduced because you’re taking it early, but you can collect that benefit from age 60 to age 70 while your own retirement benefit continues to grow. Then you can collect your own benefit starting at age 70 when it maxes out.

    Conversely, if your own benefit is small compared to the survivor benefit , you could take your own benefit at age 62, which is the earliest age at which you’re eligible. Then, at age 66, you could switch over to the survivor benefit. However, the survivor benefit would be reduced since it was taken early or before full retirement age.

    How Does That Work

    Social Security Survivors Benefit for Spouse and Child ...

    Example 1: Tricias spouse, Ben, gets $2,000 a month Social Security retirement. Tricias benefits, based on her own earnings record, are $1,200 monthly. Both spouses have reached full retirement age. Ben dies first. Tricia can get her spouses higher $2,000 payment.

    Example 2: Tricia dies first. Ben keeps getting his own $2,000 benefit. Ben gets no additional benefit based on Tricias earnings record.

    Example 3: George is 67. George currently gets $1,500 monthly Social Security retirement benefits based on his own earnings record. Georges spouse, Chris, is 64. Chris is two years short of full retirement age. Chris would get $2,000 monthly upon retirement. Chris dies. George could apply now for the survivor benefit and start getting $2,000 Chris would have gotten upon retirement. The survivors age, not the deceased spouses age, matters.

    Example 4: Karen is 61. If she starts drawing Social Security based on her own earnings record at age 62, she will get $750 monthly. If she waits until she is 66, she will get $1,000. If she waits until she is 70, she will get $1,310 monthly. Karens spouse dies. Karen is over 60. She can apply for survivor benefits based on her spouses earnings record and start getting reduced survivor benefits now. At age 70, Karen can switch over to her own earnings record and get $1,310 monthly, shown here:

    You May Like: Social Security Break Even Calculator Excel

    Earnings Limit On Survivor Benefits

    If you file for any Social Security retirement benefit before your full retirement age, there is a limit to how much you can earn. The fact that this also applies to survivor benefits will often catch individuals by surprise.

    If you are under full retirement age you are limited to $18,240 in wages or net earnings from self employment. If you exceed that limit, your benefit will be reduced by $1 for every $2 you go over. The one exception is the calendar year you turn full retirement age. For that period, your limit is a much higher $48,600. The amount theyll reduce your benefit by is more generous as well.

    Once you are full retirement age, there is no limit to the amount you can earn while drawing Social Security. You can read my article on the Social Security earnings limit or watch my video.

    You Only Get One Payment

    You can either get your Social Security income or your spouses, but not both. Once you and your spouse are both getting Social Security benefits, upon the death of your spouse, you will keep getting the larger benefit.

    If your spouse had started benefits, but you had not, you can choose to collect a survivor benefit now. If your benefit would be larger when you reach age 70, you can then switch.

    If you are caring for a child younger than age 16, you will receive 75% of the deceased workers benefit amount. This is true at any age.

    Don’t Miss: How To Get Social Security Number Of Deceased Parent

    Spouses Are Eligible For Social Security Benefits

    One of the biggest benefits of the entire Social Security program is the spousal benefit.

    If you are married, you are eligible for a Social Security retirement-age benefit based upon your spouses work history. While the basic rule states that you must be married for one year, there are exceptions.

    If you are not currently married, you may be eligible for a Social Security retirement-age benefit based upon your former spouses work history, as long as your marriage lasted at least 10 years.

    If you are eligible for your own Social Security retirement-age benefit, but your spousal benefit would be larger, you can use your spousal benefit to top-up your own benefit so that you receive the full amount of Social Security benefits available.

    Why Are Pension Plans Disappearing

    Getting Social Security Benefits Right is Critical for the Surviving Spouse

    Employers have been dropping pension plans for one simple reason: They are more expensive than 401K’s. Retirees receive a specific payment from the company each month, limited only by how long they live, a payment that’s not influenced by economic downturns. The company takes on the risk of a market downturn.

    You May Like: How To Change Your Name With Social Security After Divorce

    Calculating Your Social Security Widow Benefits

    Should you one day claim survivor benefits, the amount of your survivor benefit will not simply be added to your other Social Security benefits. Instead, the SSA will compare your earned benefit to your survivor benefit and award you the greater value of the two.

    If you choose, you are allowed to claim your own benefit without claiming your survivor benefit, or vice versa. If one is larger than the other, this would allow you to claim the smaller benefit first and let the larger one continue to grow before claiming it. Claiming strategy is critical to maximizing your benefits as a widow or widower. We suggest simulating different scenarios before its time to collect your benefits.

    Start With Your Benefits Estimates

    As a widow or widower, you have the option to claim Social Security survivors benefits as early as age 60, if your deceased spouse’s earnings record qualified him or her for Social Security.

    The survivors benefits that you’d receive at 60 would be reduced, but you can switch to benefits based on your record later , which may be higher than the survivors benefits. In the meantime, you can get your benefits estimates by visiting the Social Security Administration website.

    You can compare the estimates of what you’d receive based on your own record against what you could receive based on your deceased spouse’s record. Call the SSA at 800-772-1213 to schedule an appointment.

    Read Also: How And When To Sign Up For Social Security

    Can Your Pension Be Taken Away If You Are Fired

    When you are vested in your pension plan, that means that you have the right to keep all of it, even if some of it is made up of employer contributions, and even if you lose your job. … For example, a plan might state that after ten years of work with the company, you will earn vesting in your retirement plan.

    Plus Claiming Advice For Married Couples

    If My Spouse Dies, Do I Get His Social Security and Mine ...
    • Resize icon

    This article is reprinted by permission from

    During a recent Minnesota Public Radio program I hosted about Social Security, I was surprised at the number of callers with questions and complaints about the programs survivor benefits for widows and widowers.

    One caller protested the unfairness of the benefits since she felt they ignored her own work years and contributions. Another worried that it was only by happenstance reading an article that she learned she qualified for benefits. Widows should know about this, she said.

    So, let me try to explain what Social Securitys survivor benefits are, what they mean for widows and widowers and how President-elect Joe Biden wants to enlarge and clear up confusion about them.

    Bidens ideas for Social Security survivor benefits

    Biden has proposed several reforms which, if enacted, would boost benefits for the surviving spouse, typically women. Women live longer than men, says Nancy Altman, president of Social Security Works, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group.

    A brief definition: When a married Social Security beneficiary dies, the surviving spouse qualifies for survivor benefits. Sounds simple enough. But experts agree survivor benefits are complex and poorly understood.

    Related:Americans retirement savings may not be that safe after all, new survey finds

    The goal of Social Security survivor benefits

    The biggest mistake couples make is not coordinating benefits, says Carlson.

    Read Also: Can I Locate Someone By Their Social Security Number

    More articles

    Popular Articles