Possible Recipients of Social Security Benefits After a DeathOnce someone dies who was eligible to receive benefits, several people may be able to draw their Social Security retirement benefits. A surviving spouse who is 60 or older can get benefits; or a spouse if they are disabled and 50 or older. The Social Security Administration (SSA) also says that if a surviving spouse is caring for a child of the deceased who is younger than 16, or if the child is disabled and already receiving benefits for children, they also can get survivor’s benefits.
Children may also be eligible to receive benefits. They need to be younger than 18 or not older than 19 if they are a full-time student. Disabled children can get the benefits if they have a disability that started before they reached 22.
Social Security Benefits for a Divorced SpouseSometimes, a spouse who divorced the Social Security earner can get the same benefits as a current spouse. If they are eligible, it would not decrease the amount given to the current spouse.
Carefully Determine When to Start Getting Survivor’s BenefitsWhen you start getting survivor’s benefits, the amount you can receive depends on your age. If you are not yet of full retirement age and file for Social Security, you will get less than what you could get if you waited until you reached full retirement age. For each year you wait, you receive an additional 8 percent more. If you are 62 when you start getting benefits, you will only get about 70 percent of what you could get if you wait until you are 66 or 67.
It also affects how much your spouse will get after you are gone. The spouse will only be eligible to get the same amount you received. The only way a surviving spouse could get more is to claim their own benefits later—if it is higher than the benefits the deceased spouse received.
Benefits of Those Who Never MarriedTwo people living together may find themselves without any Social Security benefits. CNBC says some states may count their relationships as a common law marriage. Other states may not, and if you live in one of them, you may suddenly find that you are without any benefits.
Social Security Benefits and Estate PlanningGetting as much as possible in your Social Security payments, CNBC says, could be highly beneficial in your estate planning later on. Since other sources of income may not be reliable if the stock market crashes or if interest rates do not return to higher levels, you may need the money from Social Security to help pay medical bills or to get by.
The One-Time Death BenefitAfter the death of a spouse, Social Security will pay a one-time death benefit of $255 to the surviving spouse. If the spouse was not living with the deceased at the time of death but was already receiving benefits based on the dead person’s record, they may be able to get the death benefit. If there is no spouse, the death benefit will go to an eligible child based on the deceased individual’s record.
How to Get Survivor’s BenefitsThe amount of money your spouse received each month from Social Security is the same amount the surviving spouse will receive. AARP says that if you were already getting payments based on your spouse’s benefits, most likely, you will be switched automatically to receive the spouse’s benefits.
Usually, all the SSA needs for you to get survivor’s benefits is to be notified of the spouse’s death. You cannot do this online. You must call the SSA at (800) 772-1213 or let the funeral director know to notify the SSA. You will want to follow up to ensure the SSA is aware of the death.
When the death is the result of an accident or because the spouse was in the U.S. military, there is no requirement for the length of the marriage. Otherwise, the requirements are that you need to be at least 60 years old and have been married for at least nine months. If you marry at 59, you probably will not be entitled to get your deceased spouse’s benefits.
Survivor’s benefits can be a real lifesaver for those with little or no other income. By applying right away, you can get the financial help you need. If you need help applying for benefits or to get help for other financial issues, talk to a financial advisor.