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  • Writer's pictureChris Stein, CFP®

Basics of Survivor Benefits

If a person who has earned survivor benefits passes away, the family members they leave behind may be eligible for those survivor benefits.  The basics are as follows:

 Who can get survivor benefits based on your work?

  1. Your widow or widower at their age 60, or as early as age 50 if they are disabled.

  2. Your widow or widower at any age if they are caring for your child who is receiving Social Security benefits and younger than age 16 or disabled.

  3. Your unmarried children under age 18, or under age 19 if attending school full time not over the 12th grade, or who are any age if disabled before age 22 and are still disabled.

  4. Your dependent parents if they are age 62 or over.

  5. Your divorced spouse if that marriage lasted at least 10 years.

How much will the survivor receive?

  1. A widow or widower , at full retirement age or older, generally receives 100 percent of the worker’s basic benefit amount.

  2. A widow or widower, age 60 or older, but under their full retirement age receives a reduced benefit, with that reduction between 1% and 29%.

  3. A widow or widower, any age, with a child under age 16, receives 75 percent of the worker’s basic benefit amount.

  4. Children receive 75 percent of the worker’s basic benefit amount.

What things may affect the amount received?

  1. If the survivor has earned income and is under their full retirement age they are subject to the Earnings Test where benefits may be reduced.

  2. There is a maximum family benefit that ranges between 150 and 180% of the worker’s basic benefit amount.  All qualified survivor benefits may be affected by this maximum.

  3. If the survivor has a pension from work not covered by Social Security they may be subject to the “Government Pension Offset”, or GPO.  Look for another blog post on this.

  4. If a widow or widower remarries prior to age 60 they will generally, but not always, forfeit the claim on the previous deceased spouse.  If they remarry after age 60 they will not be prevented from getting benefits on their former spouse’s record.

Today’s blog is only about the basics of survivor benefits.  Stay tuned later for some specific claiming strategies involving survivor benefits when you also have your own earned retirement benfits.

And if you’d like to hear more on this topic, please use the play button below.

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