Social Security Survivor Benefits
Social Security provides survivor benefits for wage earners. Survivor benefits are essentially "life insurance" to help provide financial stability for a family devastated by the death of a wage earner.
A “survivor” is a family member who is alive at the time of the wage earner’s death. However, some jurisdictions have made provisions allowing for coverage of children born posthumously through in vitro fertilization, which is becoming more common.
Who Qualifies for Survivor Benefits?
When the family wage earner dies, some members of the wage earner's family may qualify for survivor benefits. These family members include:
- Widows and widowers - Depending on your age you may receive full or partial benefits.
- Divorced widows and widowers - Generally, if you are over 60 and your marriage spanned at least 10 years or you are under 60 and caring for the deceased's child under 16 you are entitled to benefits.
- Children - Generally children under 18 qualify, also if they have a disability that began before turning 22 and remain disabled. Under some circumstances, stepchildren, grandchildren and adopted children may also qualify.
- Dependent parents - Must be over 62 and have received more than 50% of their support from the deceased to receive benefits.
If you remarry before the age of 60 you will no longer receive survivor benefits. On the other hand, if you remarry after turning 60 you may continue to receive benefits.
I Am Entitled to Survivor Benefits. How Much Money Will I Receive?
The more Social Security credits a deceased person earned will dictate how much you receive. A wage earner earns a credit for a stated amount of wages, and can earn up to 4 credits a year. Usually a person needs 40 credits (10 years) for their survivors to become eligible for benefits; fewer credits are needed the younger the wage earner is.
The annual earnings statement sent out by the Social Security Administration will give an estimate of the survivor benefits. Generally the deceased's benefit amount is as follows:
- A widow or widower at retirement age - 100% of the deceased’s benefit amount
- A widow or widower not at retirement age but over 60 - 71-99%
- A widow or widower of any age with a child under 16 - 75%
- Children - 75%
Widows and widowers under the retirement age, and who work, may have their survivor benefits reduced. A family cannot receive more than 150-180% of the deceased's benefit amount.
What Is the One Time Death Payment?
Under certain circumstances, you or your minor children may receive a one-time payment of $250 upon the death of your spouse. An attorney experienced in Social Security benefits can determine if you qualify.
How Do I Apply for Survivor Benefits?
Because benefits are paid to survivors from the date of the application, as opposed to the date the person died, it is critical the claim is filed quickly. When applying for benefits you will need to provide information including: a death certificate, marriage certificate, and the social security numbers of the deceased and beneficiaries.
In some cases you may need to hire a lawyer for assistance with survivor benefits. For example, you may wish to appeal your claim if it was rejected or if payments have stopped.
Do I Need a Lawyer?
The laws that regulate Social Security are complex and can be very confusing. An attorney experienced with Social Security benefits can determine if you qualify for survivor benefits. A lawyer may assist you in preparing your claim so that you and your family receive all the benefits you are entitled to.
Consult a Lawyer - Present Your Case Now!
Last Modified: 02-27-2012 01:43 PM PST
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