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Social Security Survivor Benefits Explained

Many American widows and widowers get survivor benefits from social security.  If your spouse has passed away, you could collect these benefits.  You may receive as much as 100% of your late spouse’s Social Security income.

Some spouses are not aware of these benefits that could really help them in times of financial uncertainty.  Even divorced widows and widowers are eligible for benefits if they meet certain criteria.

You can file for survivor benefits at age 60 (or age 50 if you are disabled and meet certain requirements).  Normally with regular Social Security benefits you have to wait until age 62.

You have to call your Social Security office to apply for these survivor benefits.  The Social Security Administration does not allow widows or widowers to apply for these benefits online.

There are questions on whether you can receive all of your late spouse’s Social Security Income.  That depends on a few things.  If you apply for survivor benefits at full retirement age, which is 66 or 67 (depending upon your date of birth), you will receive 100% of the monthly Social Security benefit of your late spouse.  Should you apply for survivor benefits between the age of 60 and your full retirement age, you will receive a lesser amount of your late spouse’s monthly benefit.

If you are caring for a child 15 years of age or younger, you are eligible to collect a survivor benefit equaling 75% of your late spouse’s monthly Social Security Income.  Also, that child is able to receive a 75% benefit if they are younger than 18, a K-12 student younger than 19, or if the child is disabled.  It is also possible for a surviving spouse to collect a one-time $255 death payment if the spouse has already been getting benefits on the deceased worker’s Social Security record or became eligible for benefits upon that worker’s passing.

Social Security does cap the benefit amount that a family can receive to 150-180% of those received by the late Social Security recipient.

If you have been widowed and you do marry again after the age of 60 (or 50 if you are disabled) you will still qualify for Social Security survivor benefits.  If you remarry before the age of 60, you cannot receive benefits while married.

If you remarry and your new spouse gets Social Security, you can apply for spousal benefits based on your new spouse’s earnings.  If the amount of the spousal benefit would be larger than your survivor benefit, you will get whatever amount is higher.  Also, you can change from receiving a survivor benefit to your own benefit starting at age 62 if you are eligible to receive Social Security at that time and your own benefit would be greater than your survivor benefit.

However, if you worked for a federal, state or local government job where you didn’t pay Social Security taxes, the Government Pension Offset (GPO) will start.  Any pension payment you receive from that job will lower the amount of your survivor benefit by 2/3 of the amount of your pension.

We are happy to help answer any questions you have about your social security survivor benefits, plus the steps to do so. Contact your advisor today to prepare for tomorrow!



This information does not purport to be a complete description of the social security benefits referred to in this material, it has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. This information is not a complete summary or statement of all available information necessary for making a social security claims decision. Please review all of your available options and consult with your financial professional before making a social security claim.



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