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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. 

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.  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%
  • 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.

Do I Need the Help of an Expert?

The laws that regulate Social Security are complex and can be very confusing.  An attorney or a claimant’s representative experienced with Social Security benefits can determine if you qualify for survivor benefits, and assist you in preparing your claim so that you and your family receive all the benefits to which you are entitled.

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