If someone close to you passed away, the last thing on your mind should be making ends meet financially. Fortunately, there could be financial aid available for you. The Social Security Administration (SSA) offers monthly benefits to survivors to help cover expenses after someone passes away.
How Much Can a Family Earn?
Every year an employee works, he or she earns work credits. In 2018, one work credit is $1,320 in earned wages. So long as your loved one worked even part-time throughout adulthood, you’ll qualify for survivors’ benefits.
A family does have a limit to how much it can earn after the death of a loved one. The SSA calculates survivors’ benefits based on how much the deceased earned or would have earned from Social Security disability or retirement. Each eligible family member is entitled to 75% of a beneficiary’s monthly payments, but a household income limit is 175%.
A family will also be eligible for a lump-sum death payment of $255. Any surviving spouse or adult child is eligible for this payment, but a spouse is usually the person who receives it.
Who’s Eligible For Benefits?
Spouses and children are both eligible for survivors’ benefits. Here’s a little more information on who specifically can receive payments:
- A widow/widower age 60+
- A widow/widower age 50+ who has a disability
- A widow/widower of any age who’s caring for the deceased’s child, so long as the child is under age 16
- A child* under age 18, or up to age 19 if the child is in high school
- A child of any age so long as he or she has a disability that occurred before age 22
- Parents age 62 or older who relied on the deceased for at least half of their monthly support
*Who counts as a “child”? Biological children and adopted children will always be eligible for benefits. Stepchildren are also eligible so long as their parent married the deceased more than one year before death.
Eligibility for survivors’ benefits may change over time. For example, a widow with a 15-year-old child may be eligible for survivors’ benefits until her child’s next birthday. At that point she would no longer be eligible for benefits, but she would later qualify at age 60 if she does not remarry.
Maximizing Your Benefits
Some widows or widowers are eligible for both retirement benefits and survivors’ benefits. A great way to maximize your benefits is to delay retirement till age 70 and take survivors’ benefits. When you delay retirement till age 70, you’ll be entitled to 132% of your monthly retirement payment. You can receive survivors’ benefits for a full decade, then switch to your own retirement benefits at age 70. This is a great way to earn a little more from Social Security if your income was similar to your spouses. If not, you may want to opt for only survivors’ benefits instead.
Starting Your Application
You have to apply for survivors’ benefits at your local SSA office—the process cannot be completed online. There are more than 1,300 SSA offices located across the country to help facilitate the process. To schedule an appointment to apply in person, you can call the SSA toll free at 1-800-772-1213.
The SSA: https://www.ssa.gov/
Death Payment: https://www.ssa.gov/planners/survivors/ifyou.html#h7
Ways to Maximize Benefits: http://money.cnn.com/2015/03/19/retirement/social-security-benefits/index.html