What Happens To Your Spouse’s Social Security When They Die?

by Aug 14, 2017

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If your spouse receives government benefits, you may be wondering what happens to their Social Security when they die. These survivors benefits can go to dependent family members, but the amount each family member receives—and which family members receive them—depends on a few factors.

If you have questions about what happens to your spouse’s benefits after death, the disability attorneys at the Disability Advantage Group, can help. Contact us at 865-566-0800 to speak to an attorney.

What are the different types of Social Security benefits?

The Social Security Administration (SSA) runs three different benefit programs, each with a different purpose. The first type is standard retirement. This is the benefit for which anyone with a sufficient work history is eligible upon reaching retirement age.

The SSA’s two other programs deal directly with medical disabilities. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a program for workers who become disabled. Like the SSA’s retirement program, it requires a sufficient work history to be eligible. Last, there is Supplemental Security Income (SSI). SSI is a welfare program for low-income, low-asset households with disabled members.

If your spouse receives retirement benefits or SSDI, then you are eligible to receive their benefits after they die.

Which surviving dependents receive benefits?

So, how does the SSA decide which surviving dependents receive benefits, and how much will they receive?

First, the SSA sets a limit on the total amount all dependents may receive. It is generally 150 to 180 percent of the deceased’s benefit. Thus, if your spouse was receiving $1,000 per month, then you and any other dependents may receive a max of $1,500 to $1,800.

The following sections explain how the SSA divvies up that money between you and other family members.

Surviving Spouse

If your spouse receives benefits, you can continue to draw their monthly payments after their death. However, the amount you can receive depends on specific criteria from the SSA:

  • If you care for a child under 16 years old, you are eligible for up to 75 percent of your deceased spouse’s benefit total;
  • If you are age 50 to 59, you may receive 71.5 percent;
  • If you are age 60 but have not yet reached your retirement age, you are eligible for between 71.5 and 99 percent; and
  • If you have reached full retirement age, you would receive the full benefit amount.

Certain situations can affect the survivor benefit amount. If you divorced before your ex-spouse’s death or have remarried, you may not be eligible for your deceased spouse’s payments. Similarly, if you work or if you draw disability benefits of your own, you may not qualify. If you fall under one of these categories, contact our office today. We can help you understand if you qualify.

Surviving Children

The SSA will also split the total family benefit amount among any surviving children. If you and your spouse have dependent children, they can receive 75 percent of your spouse’s benefit amount if they are:

  • Unmarried; and
  • Under the age of 18.

A month before each child’s 18th birthday, the benefits stop, except in two situations:

  • The child is under 19 and still a full-time high school student; or
  • The child becomes disabledbefore age 22.

Surviving Grandchildren

Grandchildren who were dependent on your spouse can receive survivor benefits at a rate of 75 percent in certain situations. To qualify, the grandchild must:

  • Have deceased or disabled biological parents who are unable to support them financially;
  • Have begun living with your spouse before age 18; and
  • Have received at least 50 percent of their financial support from your spouse.

For grandchildren under 12 months old, they must have lived with the grandparent for most of their lives and received at least half their support from them.

If your grandchildren meet these conditions, they can receive benefits until the month before their 18th birthday.

Surviving Elderly Parents

If you care for your spouse’s elderly parents, they may be eligible for benefits if:

  • Your spouse provided at least half their support at the time of death;
  • The elderly parents are at least 62 years old;
  • The parents have not gotten married since the death of the child; and
  • The parents do not receive their own benefits at a higher amount.

A single surviving parent is eligible for 82.5 percent of the benefit amount, while two surviving parents are each eligible for 75 percent.

What if several family members are all eligible for a large benefit amount?

For instance, what if your spouse left behind two dependent children, two dependent parents, and you? That totals to five people, all eligible for 75 percent of the monthly benefit amount. The problem is the maximum family amount is no higher than 150 to 180 percent.

In this scenario, the SSA will reduce everyone’s benefit so that the total is under the limit. Each of the five eligible dependents would receive something along the lines of 30 to 36 percent.

Contact a Disability Attorney for Help Understanding Survivors Benefits from Your Spouse

A qualified attorney can help sort out a deceased spouse’s disability benefits. Call the experts at the Disability Advantage Group, today at 865-566-0800.