Tim Wood, CFF

Safe Money Retirement

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What Happens To Your Social Security When You Die?

What happens to your Social Security when you die?

Those planning their retirements should consider what, if any, Social Security benefits could be available if you are the spouse, child, or parent of a worker who dies.”

Many people planning for when they no longer work forget to include potential Social Security Survivors Benefits.

In 2021, workers can earn up to four credits per year, one credit for each $1,470 in wages or self-employment income. If a worker has hit $5,880 in wages, they have earned their maximum four credits the year.

How do those credits work?

Depending on a workers’ age at the time of death, the number of credits necessary to provide survivors’ benefits varies. The younger a decedent is, the fewer credits are needed for family members to get survivors’ benefits.

When a worker dies, benefits may be disbursed to their children and the surviving spouse still caring for the children, even if that worker doesn’t have enough credits. These survivors can receive benefits as long as the worker has credit for at least one and one-half years of work, or six credits, in the three years preceding their death. If there is no surviving spouse, payments typically go to a child eligible for benefits on the deceased worker’s record. However, you will want to talk to a Social Security expert or claims representative about your options because of everyone’s unique situations.

Who can get monthly survivor benefits?

Typically, these family members are eligible to receive monthly benefits when you pass away.

  • Your widow or widower who is at least age 60. Or a disabled widow or widower age 50 or older.
  • In certain strict circumstances, your surviving former spouse may be eligible.
  • Your widow or widower of any age who is caring for your child younger than age 16. Or if disabled and receiving a child’s benefits.
  • An unmarried child aged 18 or 19 and a full-time student in elementary or secondary school.
  • A child 18 or older with a disability that began before turning 22 may qualify.

What do you do when a family member passes away?

As of 2021, you still cannot report a death or apply for survivors’ benefits online. That’s why you need to contact Social Security and your financial advisor as soon as possible. The funeral director will often report the death to Social Security if you have provided them with the deceased’s Social Security number.

There may be instances when you want or need to speak to a Social Security representative directly. In that instance, you can call the SSA at 1-800-772-1213 during regular business hours.

What are some other considerations and caveats?

Suppose you don’t have a surviving spouse. A one-time, lump-sum death benefit of $255 might be paid to your surviving spouse if they were living with the deceased. If you were living apart, the spouse still might qualify if they received certain types of Social Security benefits on your record. A death benefit goes to any child eligible on your record in the month of death.

Suppose you were already receiving benefits when you died. Your survivors must return the benefits you may have received for the month of death and any later months. For example, if you passed away in September, you must return all benefits paid in October. Be sure your loved ones know they should not cash any checks received for the month in which you died or later.

 Summing it up: These are just some of the many rules, regulations, deadlines, and other nuances regarding Social Security survivor benefits. That’s why it makes sense to sit with a qualified Social Security expert so that you have a basic game plan in place when you or your spouse passes away. Planning will give you and your loved ones greater peace of mind when you are no longer there to help them.

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