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Who Is Eligible For Survivor Benefits From Social Security

How To Plan For Future Benefits

Who qualifies for Social Security survivor benefits?

In 2000, the average age at which people retired was roughly 61 or 62. Two decades later, its around 66, according to government data, Warshawsky said.

Just in 20 years, weve seen a substantial increase in the retirement age, Warshawsky said. People really, really are working longer.

Anecdotally, Elsasser said he sees more people retiring earlier than they had anticipated as their work prospects change.

That highlights the importance of planning ahead, so you anticipate whatever your retirement years bring. Admittedly, that can be tricky, given that Social Security could be susceptible to change.

If youre 60 and up, there is less reason to worry any prospective changes would affect your benefits, Elsasser said.

But if youre 45 to 60 years old, its reasonable to plan for benefit reductions of about 5%, he said. For those who are even younger, a 10% to 15% cut is possible.

Moreover, people of all ages should also plan for worst-case scenarios in which the program does reach a point where it can only pay a portion of benefits, which may prompt as much as a 24% benefit cut for retirees.

The real importance of planning is just making sure you have all your bases covered, Elsasser said.

How Long Do You Have To Be Married To Get Social Security Survivor Benefits

A surviving spouse must have been married for at least one year to be eligible to receive their spouse’s Social Security death benefits. However, if the surviving spouse is the parent of the spouse’s child, the one-year rule is waived. A divorced spouse may be eligible to receive benefits if they were married to their former spouse for at least 10 years.

How To Use This Information

Each survivor’s situation is different. Talk to a Social Security representative before you decide to take benefits.

If you know what the worker’s yearly lifetime earnings were, you can use our Online Calculator to get a rough estimate of what the benefits would be for the surviving spouse at full retirement age.

If you know what the widow or widowers benefit is at full retirement age, you can use the information for the survivor’s year of birth to find out how much the widows or widowers benefit would be at various ages.

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Whos Eligible For Social Security Survivor Benefits

Syndicated columnist, NBC Today contributor and creator of SavvySenior.org

Dear Savvy Senior,

Who all is eligible for Social Security survivor benefits? My ex-husband died last year at the age of 59, and I would like to find out if me, or my two kids ages 13 and 16 that we had together are eligible for anything?

–Divorced Widow

Dear Divorced,

If your ex-husband worked and paid Social Security taxes, both you and your kids may very well be eligible for survivor benefits, but you need to act quickly because benefits are generally retroactive only up to six months. Heres what you should know.

Under Social Security law, when a person who has worked and paid Social Security taxes dies, certain members of that persons family may be eligible for survivor benefits including spouses, former spouses and dependents. Heres a breakdown of who may be eligible.

Widows and divorced widows: Surviving spouses are eligible to collect a monthly survivor benefit as early as age 60 . Divorced surviving spouses are also eligible at this same age, if you were married at least 10 years and did not remarry before age 60 , unless the marriage ends.

How much youll receive will depend on how much money your spouse or ex-spouse made over their lifetime, and the age in which you apply for survivors benefits.

To find out what percentage you can get under full retirement age visit ssa.gov/survivorplan/survivorchartred.htm.

How To Receive Federal Benefits

Teen Eligibility for Social Security Survivor Benefits?

To begin receiving your federal benefits, like Social Security or veterans benefits, you must sign up for electronic payments with direct deposit.

If You Have a Bank or Credit Union Account:

  • Call the Go Direct Helpline at .

If You Don’t have a Bank or Credit Union Account:

Make Changes to an Existing Direct Deposit Account:

On Go Direct’s FAQ page, learn how to make changes to an existing direct deposit account. You also may contact the federal agency that pays your benefit for help with your enrollment.

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Benefits For Children With Disabilities

A child under age 18 may have a disability, but we dont need to consider the childs disability when deciding if he or she qualifies for benefits as a dependent. The childs benefits normally stop at age 18 unless they are a full-time student in an elementary or high school or have a qualifying disability.

Children who were receiving benefits as a minor child on a parents Social Security record may be eligible to continue receiving benefits on that parents record upon reaching age 18 if they have a qualifying disability.

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What Is The Difference Between Spousal Benefits And Survivor Benefits

The main difference between spousal benefits and survivor benefits is when they are applied. Spousal benefits can be claimed while your spouse is still alive and are determined as a portion of their current social security benefit. Survivor benefits only apply once the social security beneficiary is deceased. Spousal benefits are also typically much lower when compared to survivor benefits spousal benefits can be a maximum of 50 percent of the beneficiarys social security.

While they are commonly mistaken for one another, these benefits have different eligibility requirements and are used at different times. The marriage requirement for spousal benefits is 12 months, instead of the 9 month requirement associated with survivor benefits. That being said, one interesting similarity is that you may be eligible for spousal or survivor benefits once divorced as long as you were married for at least 10 years and are currently unmarried.

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May I Receive The Survivor Annuity And Social Security Benefits

You may receive a CSRS survivor annuity and social security payments. You may receive a FERS survivor annuity and social security payments. However, if you are the survivor of a FERS retiree, you cannot receive the FERS survivor supplement if you are eligible for social security mother, father or disability benefits based on the deceased annuitants account. Please contact the local office of the Social Security Administration for information about social security benefits.

If you receive social security benefits based on your own employment, there may be a reduction in the social security benefit you receive based on your deceased spouse’s service. Contact the Social Security Administration for more information about the Government Pension Offset at .

See the information below about benefits which may be payable to the surviving spouse of a deceased annuitant who was covered by the Civil Service Retirement System Offset program. Under these circumstances, a survivor may be eligible for both a CSRS annuity and social security benefits.

What Happens If The Deceased Received Monthly Benefits

Social Security Survivor Benefits Part 1. Who is eligible? What do I do first?

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 us.
  • Benefits received by check must be returned to us as soon as possible. Do not cash any checks received for the month in which the person dies or later.

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The Downside Of Claiming Early: Reduced Benefits

Consider the following hypothetical example. Colleen is 62 as of 2022. If Colleen waits until age 67 to collect, she will receive approximately $2,000 a month. However, if she begins taking benefits at age 62, shell receive only $1,400 a month. This early retirement penalty is permanent and results in her receiving 30% less year after year.

However, if Colleen waits until age 70, her monthly benefits will increase another 24% over what she would receive at her FRA, to a total of $2,480 per month.1 If she were to live to age 89, her lifetime benefits would be about $112,000 more, or at least 24% greater, because she waited until age 70 to collect Social Security benefits.2

Spouses And Children Payment Benefits

A beneficiary must have been living in the same household when their spouse died or meet other special conditions reviewed by the Social Security Administration. A child of the deceased may receive the payment if there is not an eligible surviving spouse, or they became eligible for benefits upon the workers death and conditions are met. A lump-sum death payment of $255 happens just one time and is paid in addition to the monthly cash benefits calculated on the earnings of the person who died and is a percentage of the deceaseds basic Social Security benefit.

Spouses or children need to apply in order to receive benefits and can do so at any Social Security office or by telephone within two years of their loved ones death. We understand all of this can be confusing and tiresome to understand. Before you attempt to work through understanding the details, or want to file for social security survivor benefits, we advise you to please contact our office so that you dont jeopardize your status.

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Chapter : How Much Will You Receive In Survivor Benefits

After the passing of the worker, Social Security pays a one-time death benefit of $255 which can be collected by the widow or child.

Then there is the monthly Social Security survivor benefit. That benefit is based on the Social Security benefit the worker was receiving .

The benefit can be up to 100% of what your spouse would have received at full retirement. If the benefit you would receive as a survivor is higher than the benefit you receive on your own, Social Security will pay you the higher of the two amounts, not the two combined. However, survivor benefits, unlike spousal benefits, dont have to be claimed at the same time as your own retirement benefits. You can, in many cases, receive one benefit for a time and then file for the other one later. This is a common strategy for widows to take to maximize their benefits.

Did you Know?

The earliest a widow or widower can apply for survivor benefits is age 60 .

Eligibility For Social Security Survivor Benefits

What You Should Know About Disability Survivor Benefits

In addition to Social Security benefits, you may be eligible for survivor benefits if you are widowed, divorced, or married for less than two years before the death of your spouse. A divorced or married couple who has been together for more than two years is not eligible for survivor benefits. If you are unmarried and your spouse dies, you may be able to receive survivor benefits if you are 60 or older or have been permanently disabled for at least a year. If you are permanently disabled and fall below the age of 60, you may be eligible for survivor benefits. If you were divorced or married for two years or more, you are not eligible for survivor benefits.

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How Will Working Affect Social Security Benefits

In a recent survey, 70% of current workers stated they plan to work for pay after retiring.1

And that possibility raises an interesting question: how will working affect Social Security benefits?

The answer to that question requires an understanding of three key concepts: full retirement age, the earnings test, and taxable benefits.

Survivor And Death Benefits

Wage earners depend on Social Security retirement benefits to help meet financial needs when they stop working, but sometimes these earners can pass away early and unexpectedly. When workers pay into Social Security, a majority goes to fund disability and retirement costs, but a portion of their taxes go toward survivors benefits as well.

When a worker passes away, some family members may be eligible for survivors benefits if the worker earned enough credits during their working lifetime. Eligible family members include widowed spouses who are 60 or older, 50 or older if they are disabled, or any age if caring for a child who is under 16 years old. Children of deceased workers are also eligible if they are not married and under 18 years old, or under 19 years old but still in school. If youre divorced and you or your spouse pass away, the surviving spouse could be eligible for a widows benefit as well.

If a worker has enough work credits when they pass away, Social Security will also make a one-time payment of $255. This payment can be made only if the spouse or child meet certain specified requirements.

To apply for survivors benefits, Social Security will need the following, either original copies or certified copies, from the issuing agency.

  • Proof of death from a funeral home or a death certificate
  • Social Security numbers for the applicant and the deceased person
  • The applicants birth certificate
  • Dependent childrens Social Security numbers and birth certificates
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    Switching To Survivors Benefits

    Nancy is approaching age 62 and is considering retirement. Based on her earnings record, her primary insurance amount at age 66 will be $800. Her husband Gary passed away last year at age 63 before claiming Social Security his PIA was $2,100. At age 62, Nancy files for her own benefits, receiving a reduced benefit of $600 per month. At her FRA, Nancy files to collect the full $2,100 monthly survivors benefit based on Gary’s earnings history.

    The Basics About Survivors Benefits

    Social Security Minute 16 – Survivor Benefits

    . If you are working and paying into Social Security, some of those taxes you pay are for survivors benefits. Your spouse, children, and parents could be eligible for benefits based on your earnings.

    . You and your family could be eligible for benefits based on the earnings of a worker who died. The deceased person must have worked long enough to qualify for benefits.

    For more information, please read .

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    What Is My Full Retirement Age

    Full retirement age for future beneficiaries will fall between the ages of 66 and 67. This is the age at which you can expect a full, unreduced benefit from Social Security. If you delay filing for benefits until after your full retirement age, you can expect a benefits increase of up to 8% per year until you reach age 70.

    Calculating The Benefit Amount

    Figuring out how much youll receive in Social Security survivor benefits requires a little math. The simple explanation is that at the death of the first spouse, surviving spouses receives the higher of their own benefit, or the benefit of the deceased. But this simple explanation doesnt consider what age the deceased filed for benefits, if they did at all, and when the surviving spouse decides to file.

    If the Deceased DID NOT File for Benefits

    If the deceased spouse never filed for benefits, but died on or before their full retirement age, the calculation is relatively easy. The survivor receives the deceaseds full retirement age benefit, adjusted for the survivors filing age .

    If the deceased spouse never filed for benefits, and died after their full retirement age, the survivor receives the deceaseds benefit in the same amount it would have been on the date of the deceaseds death reduced for the filing age of the survivor. You can see the next chart for more information on age-based reductions that come into play in both cases.

    But what if the deceased spouse filed for benefits before he passed away? If this is the case, it could get a little more confusing.

    If the Deceased DID File for Benefits

    When it doesnt pay to delay

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    Iii A Retirees Consumption Versus An Heirs Inheritance

    Previous sections of this paper have examined situations in which heirs would end up worse off under private-account plans. For many other retirees, private accounts would make little difference in how much their heirs inherited.

    For retirees who live to about an average life expectancy, private accounts would offer essentially the same tradeoff as retirees face today in the absence of private accounts: retirees could leave a nest egg for their heirs, but to do so, they would have to sacrifice some of their own consumption in old age.

    Retirees can use their resources either to consume for themselves or to save for heirs. If private-account plans provide retirees with the same overall level of resources as a system without private accounts , then the choice will remain essentially the same for retirees, irrespective of the form in which the money comes. A monthly Social Security check can either be spent or saved for an inheritance. The same goes for a lump-sum payment or monthly income from a private account.

    Accordingly, retirees with private accounts would face similar decisions to those that retirees face under the current system. Under both systems, retirees would have to decide to what degree to spend to meet current needs and to what degree to save for heirs.

    Chapter : How To Apply For Survivor Benefits

    Social Security Optimization: What You Should Know

    A widow, widower, or surviving divorced spouse cannot apply online for survivors benefits. You must call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 Alternatively, you can go in person to your local Social Security field office.

    To apply for Social Security survivor benefits, you must have the following documents:

    • Both your own Social Security number and that of the deceased worker
    • Your birth certificate
    • Your marriage certificate
    • Your divorce certificate
    • Dependent childrens Social Security numbers, if available, and birth certificates

    Did you Know?

    Unlike other Social Security benefits, you cannot apply for survivors benefits online. You must call the SSA or go in person to your local Social Security field office.

    Applying and ensuring you claim the right benefit at the right time for your personal finances can be confusing. When youre ready to apply, we recommend using a checklist to ensure you take the right steps and have the right documentation.

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