Davidson Law Group: Common Questions About Survivor Benefits

Survivor benefits are monthly Social Security payments to family members of a wage earner who has died. They typically go to the spouse, former spouse, or children of someone who was eligible for Social Security benefits.

Many married couples are often unsure about what will happen to their Social Security income if one spouse passes away. In today’s blog, the Davidson Law Group answers this question and other common questions about receiving survivor benefits.

How Do Survivor Benefits Work?

If your spouse passes away, you will be covered under the Social Security Survivors’ Insurance Program. In most cases, the benefits are based on the amount the deceased was receiving from Social Security at the time of death. Social Security survivors’ benefits are distributed based on credits earned as the employee pays into Social Security from their wages, up to four credits each year. The minimum required total to be eligible for Social Security benefits is 40 credits (10 years of work).

How Much Will You Get?

If you have already reached full retirement age (between 65 and 67), you’re entitled to 100% of your deceased spouse’s benefits. The monthly dollar amount you receive depends on how much money your spouse or ex-spouse made over their lifetime. Each person’s Social Security statement provides an estimate of survivor’s benefits.

When Can You Claim a Survivor’s Benefit?

You can collect a monthly survivor benefit as early as age 60. However, at this age, you will only receive about 70% of the amount you could get if you wait until your survivor’s full retirement age (66 or 67, depending on when you were born). If you are disabled, you can collect a Social Security survivor’s benefit at age 50. Also, you can collect an immediate one-time death benefit payment of $255 at any age.

Who is Eligible for Survivor Benefits?

Most recipients are widows and widowers, who can collect survivor benefits at age 60 (50 if they are disabled). If you are caring for a child of the deceased who is under 16 or disabled, the survivor benefit is 75 percent of the deceased’s Social Security payment.

There are a number of family members who may be eligible for survivor benefits:

Minor and Disabled Children

Minor and disabled children can collect 75 percent of a late parent’s benefit. To be eligible for survivor benefits, the child must be under 18 or have a disability dating from before they turned 22. Stepchildren and grandchildren may also qualify. In all cases, children must be unmarried to collect survivor benefits.

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Survivor benefits can go to parents age 62 or older who were financially dependent on a son or daughter who dies. The amount is 82.5 percent of the deceased’s benefit for one parent and 75 percent each for two.

Ex-husbands and Ex-wives

The divorced spouses of deceased workers can collect survivor benefits if the marriage lasted 10 years or more. Widowed spouses and former spouses who remarry before age 60 (50 if they are disabled) cannot collect survivor benefits.

Note: There is a limit to the amount that family members can receive each month. Other than the remarriage issue and the age limits for children, there is no time limit on survivor benefits — they are payable for life.

What You Need

When you apply for survivor benefits, you will need to take the following documents with you to your local Social Security office:

  • Proof of death — either from a funeral home or death certificate
  • Your birth certificate
  • Your marriage certificate
  • Your Social Security number
  • Dependent children’s Social Security numbers
  • Deceased worker’s W-2 forms, and
  • The name of your bank and your account number — so you can set up direct deposit

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Get Legal Help from Davidson Law Group

When it comes to receiving survivor’s benefits, each person’s situation is different. That is why our attorneys at the Davidson Law Group approach each client’s unique situation with compassion and attention to detail. We are eager to discuss any legal issues you may be facing. Call us at one of our three offices to schedule your appointment today, or contact us online.