Social Security was designed to provide disability benefits when a worker is injured but what happens when a worker dies?
THE TOP 3 QUESTIONS ABOUT SURVIVOR BENEFITS: WHO, HOW AND WHY?
1.WHO CAN RECEIVE SURVIVOR BENEFITS?
Survivor benefits are available for a worker’s unmarried children under the age of 18, dependent parents or widow or widower. There are certain requirements for each survivor category.
- UNMARRIED CHILDREN of the worker under the age of 18 who are attending elementary or secondary school can also receive benefits. These children must be natural or adopted children of the worker. If the child is disabled and under age 22, they can also receive benefits.
- If the worker provided for at least one-half of their PARENTS’ support, their parents could also receive benefits.
- WIDOWS OR WIDOWERS can receive full survivor benefits upon retirement age but reduced benefits are available at age 60. Surviving spouses who are disabled can receive benefits starting at age 50. But those surviving spouses who are raising the worker’s minor children (under age 16) can receive benefits at any age.
- If the worker was DIVORCED at the time of death, the surviving former spouse can receive benefits if the marriage was longer than ten years and the former spouse is age 60 or older. Just like a widow or widower, if the former spouse is caring for the worker’s minor child (under age 16), then they can receive benefits at any age. Survivor benefits will be discontinued if the surviving spouse remarries before age 60.
2. HOW MUCH DOES AN EMPLOYEE NEED TO WORK TO EARN SURVIVOR BENEFITS?
Just like with Social Security retirement benefits, a worker can earn up to four credits per year for every year they worked. Credits are dependent on the amount of money made. As of 2013, one work credit equaled $1,160 of wages or self-employment income.
“The number of credits needed to provide benefits for survivors depends on the worker’s age when he or she dies. The younger a person is, the fewer credits he or she must have for family members to receive survivor benefits. But no one needs to have more than 40 credits (10 years of work) to be eligible for a Social Security benefit.” If a worker does not have the required number of credits per their age for Social Security benefits, their surviving spouse who cares for the worker’s minor children and the minor children can receive benefits “if the worker has credit for one and one-half years of work (6 credits) in the three years just before his or her death.”
3. WHAT DO THE SURVIVING RELATIVES NEED TO DO TO APPLY FOR BENEFITS?
If a worker dies, the surviving spouse or relative can apply for benefits either by phone or in person. The Social Security Administration requires the following information
- Proof of death – either from a funeral home or death certificate;
- The surviving spouse’s Social Security number and the deceased worker’s Social Security number;
- The surviving spouse’s birth certificate;
- The marriage certificate between the surviving spouse and the deceased worker;
- Divorce papers if the surviving spouse and worker were divorced;
- Dependent children’s Social Security numbers, if available, and birth certificates, if there are dependent children;
- Deceased worker’s W-2 forms or federal self-employment tax return for the most recent year; and
- The name of the surviving spouse’s bank and account number so benefits can be direct deposited into the surviving spouse’s account.
Losing a loved one is very traumatic; making sure all paperwork is filled out correctly is difficult yet important. Help yourself by contacting an experienced Social Security benefits attorney to take care of the details while you and your family comfort each other in this time of sorrow.