If an individual who spent a lifetime contributing to the Social Security fund passes away, their surviving family members may qualify to receive a portion of their parent’s, spouse’s, grandparent’s, or child’s Social Security benefits.
However, surviving beneficiaries don’t start receiving survivors benefits automatically. Instead, you’ll need to apply for the benefits in the event of a loved one’s death.
If you're in a situation where you need to supplement your income with survivors benefits, we'll explain what they are, how to apply, and how to qualify after a Social Security wage earner’s death.
Eliminate your late tax debt
Each year, the IRS forgives millions in unpaid taxes. If you have more than $10,000 in tax debt, or have 3+ years of unfiled taxes, you could get forgiveness too. You might be eligible to lower the amount you owe, or eliminate your tax debt completely.
Easy Tax Relief could help you lower or get out of your tax debt for good. They’re well respected in the industry and have been recognized for their ethical standards when dealing with tax debt. While most tax companies just put you on a payment plan and file your taxes for you, Easy Tax Relief talks to the IRS directly. They can help you pay off your tax debt faster while potentially reducing what you owe.
Important: Not everyone will qualify. To take advantage of this special program you must owe more than $10,000 in past-due taxes.
A death must be reported to the Social Security office before you can receive benefits
Before you can start receiving survivors benefits, you’ll need to notify the Social Security Administration of the primary beneficiary’s death. If you’re working with a funeral director, they'll likely notify the SSA for you, but you’ll want to double-check to make sure.
If the funeral home doesn’t notify the SSA, you’ll need to do it yourself. Deaths can't be reported online, so you'll need to call the Social Security office at 1-800-772-1213 (or TTY 1-800-325-0778) to get started.
Surviving spouses may receive a one-time lump-sum payment
If you were married to and living with the deceased at the time of their death, you might qualify to receive a one-time lump-sum death payment, or LSDP, from the Social Security Administration. The one-time payment totals $255.
A child of the deceased might qualify to receive the LSDP if there isn’t a surviving spouse to receive the payment.
A surviving spouse age 60 or older may also receive ongoing monthly benefits
In addition to a one-time payment, surviving spouses might also receive an ongoing monthly Social Security benefit based on their deceased spouse’s work record.
Typically, you’ll qualify for this survivors benefit if you’re age 60 or older, though disabled spouses may start receiving monthly benefits at age 50.
Earn $200 cash rewards bonus with this incredible card
There's a credit card that's making waves with its amazing bonus and benefits. The Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card(Rates and fees) has no annual fee and you can earn $200 after spending $500 in purchases in the first 3 months.
The Active Cash Card puts cash back into your wallet. Cardholders can earn unlimited 2% cash rewards on purchases — easy! That's one of the best cash rewards options available.
This card also offers an intro APR of 0% for 15 months from account opening on purchases and qualifying balance transfers (then 20.24%, 25.24%, or 29.99% Variable). Which is great for someone who wants a break from high interest rates, while still earning rewards.
The best part? There's no annual fee.
Spouses are usually disqualified if they remarry before age 60
If you’re applying for survivors benefits, this disqualification may not apply to you. Still, it’s worth knowing that if you get remarried before you turn 60, you won’t qualify for survivors benefits based on your status as a widow or widower.
However, if you get remarried after you turn 60, you’ll still be eligible to receive survivors benefits. You might opt to receive spousal benefits instead based on your new partner’s earnings since that number could be higher.
Surviving children or parents may also be eligible
Some surviving children may also be eligible to receive monthly benefits based on their parent’s work record. The child must be unmarried to qualify and younger than age 18 (or age 19 if they’re still attending secondary or elementary school).
Disabled children who are older than age 18 will qualify for benefits, but only if their disability started before they turned 22.
Surviving parents can be eligible for monthly survivors benefits if they relied on the deceased beneficiary for at least half of their financial support. Surviving parents must also be at least age 62 to qualify.
Survivors receive a percentage of the wage-earner’s benefit based on their age and relationship
The more years the deceased beneficiary worked and earned Social Security wages, the higher their monthly benefits payment would be. As a survivor, you’ll receive a set percentage of that benefit amount based on your age and relationship with the deceased.
Widows and widowers aged 60 or older but haven’t yet reached their full retirement age will receive anywhere from 71% to 99% of their spouse’s benefits. Those who have reached full retirement age typically qualify for 100% of their spouse’s benefits.
Surviving children who qualify will receive 75% of the benefit. Additionally, widows or widowers raising a child (age 16 or younger) will receive 75% of their spouse’s benefit regardless of age.
Ex-spouses might qualify for survivors benefits as well
In some cases, you might qualify to receive survivors benefits if your ex-spouse passes away. You must have been married for 10 consecutive years to qualify.
Otherwise, the same rules apply to an ex-spouse as to a widow or widower: You’ll receive a payment based mainly on your current age.
Additionally, as with a widow or widower, ex-spouses can receive survivors benefits no matter their age or the length of their marriage if they’re raising their and the deceased’s biological or adopted child.
The child must either be disabled or under age 16 for the ex-spouse to qualify for benefits.
There is a maximum benefit amount that can be paid to surviving family members
While many people can qualify for survivors benefits, the Social Security Administration will only pay a certain percentage of the deceased individual’s benefits. Typically, that limit is anywhere from 150% to 180% of the benefit.
However, any payments being made to a surviving ex-spouse won’t count toward the 150% to 180% limit unless that surviving ex-spouse is also a parent to the deceased’s biological or adopted child under age 16.
In the latter case, the benefit payment will count toward the family's maximum benefit cap.
If you’re already receiving benefits, it’s still worth reporting the death and applying for benefits
If you’ve reached retirement age, you might already be receiving Social Security benefits based on your own work record.
However, if your deceased spouse worked longer than you did or earned higher wages, your Social Security benefit might be higher if you receive survivors benefits instead.
In that case, the SSA will combine your survivors benefit amount with your current Social Security benefit to ensure you receive whichever payment is higher.
Take advantage of historically high rates to grow your wealth
Are your savings just sitting around, not earning much interest? It's time to make a change and put your money to work for you! With CloudBank 24/7, you can earn more interest on your money today ... while keeping your cash OUT of the stock market.
Here’s their secret: CloudBank 24/7 amplifies your money by doing what many banks refuse to do … paying you a rare 5.26% APY (annual percentage yield)12 on your cash.
When you deposit your money into this high-yield savings account, you can supercharge your emergency fund, short-term savings, return on cash, and more with interest income generated from their high 5.26% APY payout.
The best part? There are no fees, you can withdraw your money at any time, and opening an account takes as little as 3 minutes. CloudBank 24/7 is FDIC-insured through Third Coast Bank SSB and cybersecurity is a top priority, ensuring your data is kept safe.
Nothing can take away the pain of losing a spouse. But the financial challenges that come from losing a wage-earning member of your household can be offset somewhat by survivors benefits.
Plus, if you qualify for survivors benefits, make sure you apply: Planning for retirement — whether you retire early, late, or exactly on time — requires you to count every cent.
FinanceBuzz is not an investment advisor. This content is for informational purposes only, you should not construe any such information as legal, tax, investment, financial, or other advice.