Social Security Survivor Benefits

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Social Security Survivor Benefits

Social Security provides survivor benefits for wage earners throughout their lifetime. Social Security Survivor benefits are a type of federal benefits that operate similar to a life insurance policy because the policy benefits are paid to dependents and family members when the insured worker dies.

Certain family members and dependents of the deceased worker’s family can apply to receive survivor benefits from the Social Security Administration if the insured worker was entitled to Social Security insurance before dying.

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:

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:

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.

Is There A Limit to the Family Members Can Receive?

Yes. There is a limit to the amount that family members can receive each month through the social security survivor benefits. The limit varies, but it is generally equal to about 150 to 180 percent of the basic benefit rate.

If the total amount of the survivor benefits paid to the family members is greater than this limit, the benefits would be reduced proportionally. Any benefits paid to the surviving divorced spouse based on disability or age would not count toward this maximum amount.

What Is the One Time Death Payment?

Under certain circumstances, you or your minor children may receive a one-time payment of $255 upon the death of your spouse. An attorney experienced in Social Security benefits can determine if you qualify.

This payment can be made only to your spouse or minor children if they meet these certain requirements:

If the spouse or children are eligible for this one-time lump payment and are currently not receiving any benefits, they can apply for this payment within two years of the worker’s date of death.

How Do I Apply for Survivor Benefits?

To Apply for Social Security Benefits, call the Social Security Administration at (800) 772-1213 to set up an appointment to apply for the social security survivor benefits. It is recommended that you apply for the survivor benefits as soon as possible since survivor benefits are paid from the date of the application rather than the date of death.

Gather the following information and documentation before your appointment with SSA:

Would I Still Receive Survivor Benefits If I Remarry?

Generally, a widow who remarries after the death of a deceased worker cannot receive survivor benefits if they remarry. However, remarriage after the age of 60 (or 50 if disabled) will not prevent a widow from receiving survivor benefits payments.

Would I Still Receive Survivor Benefits If I Still Work?

If you work while receiving Social Security survivors benefits and are still under the age of 65 the amount of the benefits that you will receive will be reduced if your earnings exceed certain limits. To find out what the certain limits are this for this current year and how the earnings above those limits reduce your Social Security benefits, contact the Social Security Administration.

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.

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Last Modified: 01-05-2015 03:54 PM PST

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