Social Security benefits

The SSA offers both retirement benefits and survivor benefits to family members of covered workers.  Family members may include widows and widowers, children, former spouses and dependent parents.

What if both spouses are receiving social security retirement checks and one spouse dies?
What happens if the surviving spouse is not caring for minor children and is not at least 62 years of age?
What happens if the surviving spouse is caring for minor children?
Are benefits available for surviving divorced spouses
?
If you were receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) checks, do any benefits continue for your survivors?

Q. What if both spouses are receiving social security retirement checks and one spouse dies?
A. If you and your surviving spouse both worked and are both receiving social security retirement benefits, one check stops when the first spouse dies.  The surviving spouse is eligible to continue to receive the retirement check paying the higher benefit.

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Q. What happens if the surviving spouse is not caring for minor children and is not at least 62 years of age?
A. If the surviving spouse is not eligible to receive social security benefits based upon his/her age and work record, the surviving spouse cannot continue to receive the social security retirement check previously being paid to the spouse who died.  The surviving spouse must reapply for SSA retirement benefits when he or she meets SSA retirement age qualifications.

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A Family Story: Younger wife with no minor or disabled children.
John was 67 when he died.  His wife, Mary, was 50 years old.  When John died, his social security retirement check of $1,850 stopped.  Mary did not meet the age requirements for receiving social security retirement benefits, and had no existing right to John’s retirement check.  Mary’s retirement income went from $1,850 to zero.

When Mary meets the current social security retirement age of 62, she can apply to receive SSA retirement benefits.  At that time, SSA will decide whether the benefit would be higher using John’s work record or Mary’s.

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Q. What happens if the surviving spouse is caring for minor children?
A. If you are working and paying into Social Security, some of the Social Security taxes you pay goes toward survivors insurance.
If the surviving spouse is caring for minor children, he or she is eligible to apply for and receive survivor benefits based upon the work record of the spouse who died.

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Q. Are benefits available for surviving divorced spouses?
A. A person can receive retirement benefits as a divorced spouse on the decedent’s Social Security record if he or she was married to the decedent for at least 10 years, is at least 62 years old, is unmarried and is not entitled to a higher Social Security benefit on his or her own record.

The deceased’s former spouse, however, does not have to meet the age or length-of-marriage rule if caring for the decedent’s child who is under age 16 or who is disabled.

Survivors benefits paid to a divorced spouse will not affect the benefit rates for other survivors.

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Q. If you were receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) checks, do any benefits continue for your survivors?
A. If the deceased was receiving SSDI benefits, SSDI stops at the time of death because the benefits are based on the needs of the individual and are only paid to the qualifying person.

Although SSDI does not provide survivor benefits, the executor or next of kin should check with the SSA office to see if the surviving spouse or minor children are eligible for other SSA survivor benefits.

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