How Social Security Survivor Benefits Work
Social Security Survivor Benefits are much different from Spousal Benefits in several ways. In fact, there’s very little to compare between the two. Here are the primary things that you need to know about Survivor Benefits:
- Survivor Benefits can be claimed as early as age 60. Of course, as with all early claims for benefits, the amount will be reduced if you claim earlier than Full Retirement Age (FRA). At age 60 your Survivor Benefit would be reduced to 71.5% of your late spouse’s benefit amount (or PIA if he or she wasn’t at FRA).
- Survivor Benefits are based upon 100% of the amount of benefit (at your FRA) that the deceased spouse was or should be receiving, whereas Spousal Benefits are based upon the PIA, and then only at a 50% maximum rate.
- Survivor Benefits can also be applied for separately from your own retirement benefit – meaning that you can receive Survivor Benefits while delaying receipt of your own retirement benefit (if it’s higher) in order to receive Delayed Retirement Credits up to age 70.
- Survivor Benefits are only payable if the surviving spouse has not remarried before age 60. After age 60, the surviving spouse can remarry and still receive Survivor Benefits based upon the deceased spouse’s record.
- A disabled surviving spouse can collect benefits as early as age 50 – at the same rate as if waiting to age 60 – 71.5% of the deceased spouse’s benefit.
- If a surviving spouse is caring for a child under the age of 16, Survivor Benefits can be claimed until the child or children are over age 16. This benefit is equal to 100% of the deceased spouse’s benefit (or PIA if the deceased spouse was not receiving benefits).
- Survivor Benefits can also be paid to children of the decedent, provided they are under age 19 and a full time student. If the child is disabled (prior to age 22), Survivor Benefits can still be paid to the child after age 19. The child’s Survivor Benefit is at a 75% rate of the decedent’s benefit.
These Survivor Benefit rules also apply to ex-spouses who become widows or widowers, as long as the ex-spouse was married to the ex-spouse for at least ten years.