Social Security Survivor BenefitsThe loss of a financial provider to a family can be a catastrophic event.  Not only is the surviving spouse left to cope with the emotional pain of the death of their loved one, but they must also determine how they will meet their financial needs.   This becomes even more challenging when that spouse is left to provide for their minor children.   Fortunately, for those whose deceased loved one has paid into the social security system, financial help is available through Social Security Survivor Benefits.

Social Security Survivor Benefits

Social Security is often thought of as a program which provides individual workers with a pension benefit when they reach a certain age.  However, Social Security also offers those who pay these taxes, survivor benefits which can be paid to their families.  What this means is that if you were someone who has paid into the social security system through paying a qualifying amount of Social Security taxes and died, your qualifying family members could get a monthly benefit from Social Security as your survivors.    These family members may include your surviving spouse, children, former spouse, and dependent parents.

Who is Eligible?

Who may receive survivor benefits and the amount they can receive will depend on several factors.  For instance, if your spouse dies, you can be eligible for a survivor benefit as long as you have been married for at least nine months.  However, the length of the marriage does not matter if you are caring for a child of the deceased spouse who is under the age of 16.

The surviving spouse can receive these benefits if they are age 60 or older and were married to the deceased person for at least ten years.  A former spouse who is 50 or older is and disabled and was married to the decedent for at least ten years and may also receive a survivor benefit.  It should be noted, however, that remarriage before a certain age can affect spousal eligibility for these benefits.

Children of the person who died can also receive survivor benefits if they are under 18, or up to age 19 if attending primary or secondary school full-time.   However, if the child became disabled before they turned 22, there is not an age requirement. Parents age 62 or older who were getting at least one-half of their support from the person that died can also receive survivor benefits.

Surviving Spouse Benefit Amount

A person’s survivor benefit will depend on how much the decedent’s earnings were subject to Social Security taxes. Generally, if neither spouse has received their Social Security pension and the surviving spouse waited to until their full retirement age to apply for survivor benefits, they would receive all of their deceased spouse’s benefit.  However, for some, waiting until their full retirement age may not be an option.  For those individuals, they may apply as early as age 60, but their survivor benefit may be reduced by a certain percentage.  There may also a reduction in benefit if the surviving spouse is drawing their survivor benefit before their full retirement age and continues to work.

Children, Dependent Parents, and Former Spouse Benefit

Children of the person who died who are under 18 (or up to age 19 if they’re attending elementary or secondary school full time), are entitled to a certain percentage of their benefits.  Dependent parents of the person may also be entitled to a certain percentage.  A surviving former spouse age 60 or older could get benefits if the marriage lasted at least ten years.  However, the length of the marriage does not matter if the former spouse is caring for the decedent’s child age 16 or younger.

Needless to say, Social Security Survivor Benefits are complicated.  Determining your eligibility and benefit amount requires a deep understanding of the Social Security laws and rules.  Our office has attorneys who are experienced with Social Security Survivor Benefits and can advise you about you and your loved one’s eligibility. Please contact us online or by phone if we may be of assistance.

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