Collecting a Spouse’s Social Security Benefits
September 5, 2019
The death of a spouse can bring financial uncertainty in addition to emotional suffering. This is particularly true in households where the spouse was the primary earner or contributed significantly to the total income of the household. Among the many questions they must ask moving forward, the surviving spouse may wonder if they can collect their deceased spouse’s Social Security benefits now that they are gone.
Age Affects Eligibility
The short answer is yes, they will be eligible to receive their spouse’s Social Security benefits. There are a number of factors that can affect how much they will receive, however. One of these factors is age: the surviving spouse can collect the full amount of Social Security survivor benefits if they have reached the Full Retirement Age (FRA), currently set at 66 for those born between 1943 and 1954.
Spouses can start receiving survivor benefits as early as age 60, but they will not receive the full amount. At age 60, they will receive 71 percent; the later they submit their claim, the higher the percentage they will receive. The percentage is fixed from the time that the claim is submitted, so it is beneficial for the surviving spouse to wait until their FRA if they can.
Other family members can also have an impact on a spouse’s eligibility for survivor benefits. If the surviving spouse is caring for a child who is under age 16 or is disabled, they can claim 75 percent of their survivor benefits as early as age 50. They have the same eligibility if they are caring for another relative, such as a sick parent, who was considered a dependent of the deceased spouse. If the spouse remarries before age 60, however, they cannot claim survivor benefits; remarrying after age 60 will not affect their eligibility.
Social Security Earnings
The deceased spouse must have earned above a certain threshold in order for their surviving spouse to be eligible for survivor benefits. A worker can earn up to four credits per year toward qualifying for Social Security, and the younger they are when they pass away, the fewer credits are needed for their spouse to receive benefits. The most any worker would need for eligibility is 40 credits.
The amount of the survivor benefits also depends on whether the surviving spouse is receiving their own Social Security retirement benefit. The Social Security Administration will not pay out both benefits, but will give the beneficiary whichever is higher. If the survivor benefit is higher, Social Security will pay the retirement benefit plus additional funds on top so that it equals the amount of the survivor benefit.
Long Island Elder Law Attorneys at Korsinsky & Klein, LLP Help Families Claim Their Survivor Benefits
The rules of eligibility and procedure for claiming survivor benefits under Social Security are complex, but the elder law attorneys at Korsinsky & Klein, LLP are here to help. We help families navigate Social Security regulations to ensure that they are receiving the maximum benefits to which they are entitled. With offices conveniently located in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Lakewood, New Jersey, we help families throughout the greater New York City area and Long Island. Call us today at 212-495-8133 or contact us online to discuss your case with a Long Island elder law attorney.