Who is eligible for Social Security Survivor Benefits?

Dec 05, 2023 By Triston Martin

Social Security is well-known for providing retirees with monthly payments. As its full name Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI), indicates, Social Security offers a variety of benefits. Your spouse or dependents may qualify for survivor benefits in the case of your passing if you are eligible to receive Social Security payments upon retirement. But the regulations can be challenging, much like with many federal programs.

You may be eligible for a monthly Social Security survivor benefit after the passing of a spouse. This is valid if you have been married for at least nine months.

Even if you were married for a short period, you are still eligible to receive spousal support if you raise your late spouse's kid under the age of 16.

You can benefit from a Social Security survivor payment as early as 60. If you are disabled, you can begin receiving this compensation at age 50.

If you wait for your full retirement age, you will receive around 70% of what you would at age 60. For individuals born between 1945 and 1956, this is age 66. The full retirement age for those born in 1962 or later. 67 is the maximum eligible retirement age when receiving spousal benefits.

First, for your loved ones to be eligible for benefits, you must work the required number of years and accrue the necessary number of credits annually, just like you must do to qualify for benefits yourself.

For 2022. you will receive one credit for every $1,510 you make, up to a maximum of $6,040, for four credits per year. By 2023, it will increase to $6,560 for every $1,640 you make.

Basics of Social Security Survivor Benefits

Whether you or your spouse has already begun receiving payments, you must decide when to start receiving benefits after the death of your spouse. Here are the fundamental principles involved.

Couples Who Have Not Yet Claimed for Benefits

Waiting longer will enable both of you to receive a more significant benefit if you haven't begun receiving benefits. This applies to the survivor benefit once one of you dies.

The spouse with the higher income should delay starting their benefits until they are 70 to receive the most out of the survivor benefit. As a result, the monthly payment increases. The remaining spouse will receive the larger amount when the first spouse passes away.

Couples who have claimed Benefits

If you and your spouse had both begun claiming, the larger benefit amount would be your monthly payment. The smaller of the two payments will be discontinued.

You may choose when to file for the survivor benefit if your deceased spouse (or ex-spouse) has already begun receiving payments, but you have not. Depending on when you start receiving benefits, you may get more or less money from Social Security throughout your lifetime.

Survivor Benefits for Spouses

A widow or widower who has achieved full retirement age is entitled to the 100% benefit of the dead. Between 60 and full retirement age, a widow or widower is eligible to receive 71.5% to 99% of the survivor benefits. If qualified, divorced spouses can receive the exact percentages as widows and widowers. A disabled widow or widower between 50 and 59 is eligible for 71.5%. Any widow or widower raising a child under 16 may qualify for 75% of the estate.

If the surviving spouse shares a residence with the deceased spouse, Social Security will pay a death benefit of $255. This payment is paid just once. The monthly revenue is more significant.

The monthly payment depends on the dead spouse's lifetime earnings. Additionally, it is based on the Social Security benefits they received or would have received.

The larger your spouse's Social Security benefit will be, the more money they made over their lifetime.

How can Spouses maximize the survivor benefits?

As mentioned above, surviving spouses can receive a deceased benefit as early as age 60, except those who are disabled or caring for a qualified child. To obtain the maximum 100% payout, individuals must wait until they reach full retirement age.

If You Are Already Getting Retirement Benefits

Existing retirees may only apply for the social security benefits as a widow or widower if the amount of benefits they currently receive is less than the survivor benefit.

In other words, you will get the higher of the two benefits. Though, you can only receive one benefit simultaneously.

If you are not Getting Retirement Benefits

By taking the benefits in the most advantageous order, spouses qualified for both the retirement and the survivor benefits based on their work history can maximize their overall benefits.

Before applying for any benefit, you can contact the Social Security Administration to discuss which benefit to take first. Ideally, you want to be certain that you're making the decision that best suits your financial situation by considering all of the factors, such as your age, your deceased spouse's age, and eligible benefits, including both the survivor's and retirement benefits.

How can you Apply For Survivor Benefits?

You cannot apply for survivor benefits online because every person's situation is different. But you can also make an appointment and apply in person at your neighborhood Social Security office. You may always find the most recent criteria and contact details on the Social Security Administration website.

Gathering the necessary paperwork in advance will assist speed up the application process by submitting certain documents, such as a death certificate, proof of citizenship, marriage certificate, or divorce decree. You are also required to submit your bank's name and account number so that payments can be sent to it.

Bottom Line

In 2020, only December saw payouts of $7 billion go to six million survivors. 70% of single retirees receive at least 50% of their income from Social Security. You can use a Social Security calculator to calculate survivor benefits if you have lost a spouse. Making a well-informed decision can increase your financial security as you prepare for your next stage of life.

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