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What You and Your Spouse Need to Know About Survivors Benefits Through Social Security

In the unfortunate situation where your spouse passes away, it should be known that you may qualify for Social Security Survivors benefits.

This can be a great source of financial support in circumstances. In the event that you are forced to care for a child of your deceased spouse, then the nine-month marriage requirement will be waived. Your husband or wife needs to know what their survivors benefits through Social Security look like, and you must have a clear understanding of how they will be paid. You must be certain that you have had a conversation with your loved ones, and you should contact the Social Security Administration any time you have a question about these benefits. You might plan for the future, or you could have pressing questions that you must have answered because you are already receiving benefits. To receive this one-time waiver the child should be under the age of 16 years old.

Collecting Survivor’s Benefits 

In cases where you or your spouse started collecting Social Security benefits before the age of 70, the maximized monthly benefit amount will automatically become the survivors benefit payment. This means that any lower existing benefits payments will be immediately stopped. In cases where your current or ex-spouse started collecting Social Security benefits before you have begun collecting anything, then it will be up to you to decide when to claim the deceased person’s survivors benefits. Often times individuals entitled to receive survivors benefits will delay collecting payments in order to increase the monthly benefits that can be received later on in life. The payment size completely depends on the age you decide to start collecting benefits at.

Determining How Much You Can ReceiveImage result for collecting social security benefits illustrations

The Social Security Survivor Benefits payout amount that you will receive monthly completely depends on how much your deceased spouse or ex-spouse paid out in Social Security payroll taxes over their lifetime. If you look carefully at your annual Social Security statements, it will list an estimated figure for the survivor’s benefits that you specifically qualify for. There are several guidelines used to determine the estimated survivor benefits that you or your living spouse could potentially qualify for.

Delayed Social Security Benefits

As mentioned in the section above, if you or your spouse delayed Social Security benefits payments until your full retirement age, then once either of you turns 66 or 67 years of age you will qualify for 100% of your benefits potential upon the death of your spouse. If your Social Security statement lists $2,000 per month as your estimated survivors benefit entitlement, then $2,000 monthly will be your benefits payment if you waited to collect at the full retirement age.  Social Security Survivor Benefits increase due to what is called a delayed retirement credit. For example, if you started collecting survivors benefits after the full retirement age up until you turn 70 then you will receive an even higher monthly payment than if you had not delayed receiving benefits. Essentially you receive accumulated back-benefits payments folded over into your total monthly payout once benefits collection begins. Many people choose to delay collecting benefits for the sole purpose of collecting a larger monthly sum at or slightly above the age of 70.

How Long Does It Take To Complete The Application? 

You could complete the application quickly, but you must allow the SSA enough time to complete your application. They will let you know if they need extra information, or you might receive a letter that tells you your request was not honored. You must contact the SSA for an appeal, or you could submit the paperwork that is missing. You have many options when you need benefits, and you can work something out with the SSA in most cases.

Special Circumstances 

There are special situations that may possibly allow you to qualify for full survivors benefits earlier than the full retirement age. For example, if you have been deemed disabled by the Social Security Administration then you may collect full survivors benefits as early as 50 years old. You can also collect full survivors benefits at any age if you are caring for your deceased spouse’s child that is under 16 years old. And lastly, you are entitled to a one-time $255 death benefit payment at any age which may be collected immediately or at any time after your spouse passed away.

Knowing the Basics of Social Security Survivors Benefits

Your Social Security Survivors Benefits calculation will largely depend on whether you or your deceased spouse had already begun to collect Social Security retirement benefits. It’s fairly easy to understand the basics of how this works. For married couples that have not yet started collecting any type of Social Security benefits, you can maximize the survivor’s benefits paid out by delaying the retirement age of the highest earner between the two of you. It is recommended that you delay this until the higher earner is 70 years of age. If this is done then the monthly Social Security Survivors Benefits your surviving spouse will receive will be substantially higher than if they were to collect any form of benefits at an age earlier than 70 years old.

How Early Can You Start Collecting?

The earliest age you can collect Social Security Survivors Benefits is 60 years old. It should be noted, however, if you claim benefits at this earliest age requirement then you will be slightly penalized and only receive 70 percent of the maximized amount you would qualify for later in life. The full retirement age set by the Social Security Administration is 66 years of age for individuals born between 1945-1956. If you were born later than 1962 then the full retirement age is set at 67 years old. Your survivor’s benefits should not be confused with your Social Security retirement benefits, as the retirement age for both is slightly different.

What Are Survivors Benefits Through Social Security?Image result for survivors benefits social security illustrations

Survivors benefits through Social Security are paid to the surviving spouse when one half of a couple dies. The surviving spouse is allowed to take those benefits for themselves, but they are paid based on the age of the spouse who died. Someone who dies before full retirement age at 65 gives less to their spouse than someone who dies at 65 or later. There is a calculation that the SSA can do to help you understand how much you would get, and you could clarify how much you are to receive.

How Are Survivor’s Benefits Paid? 

Survivors benefits through Social Security for your spouse are paid to your spouse after your death certificate and documentation has been submitted to the SSA. The SSA has all the paperwork that they need in most cases because funeral homes will take care of it, but you might need to submit the death certificate yourself. There is an application to complete that will see those benefits assigned to you, and you could use those benefits as you see fit.

How Do You Make Certain You Are Approved? 

You must have the death certificate for your partner, and you must have their will if it has been probated. This is a very simple thing for you to manage, and you could use those documents many times over after someone dies. You might feel much more comfortable if you do this early on because you want to make certain there are no tangles in the system. The SSA could accuse you of not reporting a death if you do not move quickly.

Image result for social security survivors benefit illustrationsDo Your Social Security Benefits Change? 

The survivors benefit through Social Security for your spouse are changed every time the amount changes. The government decides how much they will pay to retirees every year, and they will continue to raise that number as inflation gets higher and higher. You are given the correct value every time there is a change, and you are given a statement that explains how much you will receive. You could use this statement if you believe the amount is incorrect, and you must contact the SSA if you ever have questions about how much you are supposed to receive.

Contact the Service Center

You can contact the Social Security service center at any time, or you can go to the SSA office that is in your community. You might want to call that office for help, or you could make an appointment with a counselor who will walk you through your benefits. They could help you fill out the application to get the benefits owed to your deceased spouse, and they will explain how those checks are written. You must contact the SSA as much as you need because only they can answer your questions.

Do You Need A Lawyer?

You need a lawyer if you believe that you will have legal challenges regarding the benefits that you are due. You might want to hire a lawyer if you are confused by the process, and you might need to hire an attorney if the SSA does not make good on their promise to pay survivors benefits to you. All survivors benefit through Social Security for your spouse should be easy to manage, but you could end up in a situation where your marriage is disputed, their death records are not in order, or someone in your family wants that money.