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Although challenging to think about, Social Security death benefits are an important aspect of life. Just like other life insurance policies, annuities, or pensions, death benefits must be considered when someone passes. Social Security death benefits constitute the payout to a beneficiary attached to the deceased’s social security number. Death benefits help family members and dependents obtain financial security in the event of a loved one’s untimely death. Social Security may pay out death benefits in a few different ways based on the beneficiaries’ relationship to the deceased individual, as well as the method chosen by the beneficiaries.
How Death Benefits Work
When an individual with Social Security benefits dies and leaves behind a surviving spouse, ex-spouse, dependent child, or dependent parent, this person or persons may be eligible to receive financial compensation on behalf of the deceased known as death benefits. Death benefits or Social Security survivor benefits, as they are often called, are guaranteed to be paid to listed beneficiaries as long as premiums are met while the insured individual or annuitant was alive. Death benefit proceeds can be provided to beneficiaries as either a special lump-sum death benefit of $255 and/or as monthly or annual payments that occur on an ongoing basis; these payments would be called survivor benefits. While annuity beneficiaries may pay income or capital gains tax on death benefits received, beneficiaries from life insurance policies who receive death benefits as lump-sum payments are not subject to income taxes.
Who is Eligible for Death Benefits?
Qualifying survivors or those eligible for Social Security death benefits fall into a number of different categories. The first and likely most obvious group of individuals who may receive death benefits in the event of a worker’s death are the surviving spouses of eligible workers.
A surviving spouse of an eligible worker who lived in the same household as the worker at the time of death, also known as a widow or widower, must be 60 or over in order to receive death benefits. In the event that the surviving spouse has children under the age of 18 for whom they are responsible, the surviving spouse is eligible for death benefits regardless of his or her age. Surviving spouses who lived apart from an eligible worker but received social security benefits on the worker’s record may also be eligible to receive death benefits.
Unmarried children under the age of 18 (22 if disabled) are also eligible to receive Social Security death benefits in the untimely event of a parent worker’s death. In order to qualify, children must have been receiving benefits based on the work record of the deceased parent during the month when the parent died. Children need not always be biological in order to receive death benefits. In some circumstances, stepchildren, grandchildren, and adopted children will be eligible for either lump-sum or monthly death benefit payments. It is best to consult with an attorney who has experience with death benefits in order to understand all the terms in each individual case.
Other individuals who may receive death benefits include dependent parents and divorced spouses. Dependent parents of the deceased must be of age 62 or older. Surviving divorced spouses must be at least 60 years old and married to the deceased for at least 10 years.
Determining the Amount of Death Benefits
The amount of Social Security death benefits a beneficiary or beneficiaries may receive in the event of a deceased worker’s death depends on how much the worker contributed to social security while the worker was alive. At least 10 years of work must have been completed in order to qualify for benefits. Each survivor indicated as a beneficiary is entitled to a percentage of the deceased worker’s benefits depending on the relationship to the deceased. It is important to note that the total amount of benefits available to all family members cannot exceed 150% to 180% of the deceased’s benefit amount. Widows and widowers are entitled to 100% of the deceased spouse’s benefits at full retirement age; children under 18 are entitled to 74% of the deceased worker’s benefits; dependent surviving parents are entitled to 82.5% of the deceased worker’s benefits for one parent or 75% for both parents.
In order to better understand how you can receive Social Security death benefits on behalf of a deceased loved on, it is best to contact the death benefits attorneys at Cardinal Law Partners. We have four convenient locations in Raleigh, Greensboro, Charlotte, and Belmont, North Carolina, and are able to provide legal support for all of your death benefits needs in North Carolina or South Carolina.