Losing a parent is a deeply emotional and challenging experience, and it often comes with financial considerations. If your parent was receiving Social Security benefits before their death, you may wonder whether you can collect their Social Security after they die. This blog article explains what you need to know about how Social Security works when one of your parents dies.
At Sackett and Associates Disability Law Firm, we want you to understand the rules and options regarding survivors’ benefits and how they apply when your parents pass away. We’ve helped thousands of individuals and families deal with these and other disability-related issues.
Social Security Survivor Benefits
Social Security provides survivor benefits to eligible family members of deceased workers who have paid into the Social Security system. These benefits are intended to provide financial support to surviving spouses, children, and, in some cases, dependent parents.
The specific rules for survivor benefits can vary based on your relationship to the deceased individual and your age. To collect survivor benefits on your parent’s Social Security record, several conditions must be met:
1). Parent’s Work History
To be eligible for survivor benefits on your parent’s record, your parent must have been eligible for Social Security benefits or already receiving them at the time of their death. This means they must have worked and paid Social Security taxes for a certain number of years to earn these benefits.
2). Relationship to the Deceased
Your relationship to the deceased parent determines your eligibility for survivor benefits. Generally, survivor benefits may be available to:
- Surviving Spouse: A surviving spouse may be eligible for survivor benefits, provided they meet certain criteria, such as being at least 60 years old (or 50 if disabled) or caring for a dependent child under the age of 16.
- Dependent Children: Dependent children under the age of 18 (or up to age 19 if they are full-time students) are eligible for survivor benefits. Disabled adult children may also qualify if their disability began before the age of 22.
- Dependent Parents: In some cases, dependent parents of a deceased worker may be eligible for survivor benefits if they meet certain criteria.
3). Age and Marital Status
Survivor benefits for spouses and parents are often age-dependent. Surviving spouses typically need to be at least 60 years old (or 50 if disabled) to collect benefits based on their deceased spouse’s record. If you are divorced but were married to the deceased for at least ten years, you may also be eligible for survivor benefits.
Dependent children can typically receive benefits until they turn 18 (or 19 if they are still in high school) unless they are disabled. Disabled adult children could continue to receive benefits if their disability began before age 22.
4). Application for Benefits
To receive survivor benefits, you must apply for them. The Social Security Administration (SSA) does not automatically enroll survivors. You can apply for survivor benefits by contacting an experienced disability lawyer like those at Sackett and Associates Disability Law or contacting your local Social Security office or by applying online through the SSA’s website.
However, it is highly recommended that you seek professional advice from a disability lawyer before you submit your application. An incomplete application or one not sufficiently supported by documentation can result in long, unnecessary delays or in outright denial of your claim.
5). Limits on Survivor Benefits
It’s important to note that there are limits on the total amount of survivor benefits that can be paid to family members based on a single deceased worker’s record. This limit is generally between 150% to 180% of the deceased worker’s full retirement benefit. If the total amount payable to all eligible survivors exceeds this limit, each survivor’s benefit is reduced proportionally. That means if two survivors are eligible to receive survivor benefits, the most each would receive is 75% of the decedent’s benefit. However, if there were three survivors who each received survivor benefits, then each could receive no more than 50% of the total of the decedent’s benefits.
Collecting Your Parent’s Social Security
If your parent passes away and you believe you may be eligible for survivor benefits, here’s what you should do:
1). Notify the SSA
Contact the Social Security Administration as soon as possible to report your parent’s death. You can do this by phone or in person at your local SSA office. You will need to provide your parent’s Social Security number and other relevant information. Depending on what day of the month your parent died, the Social Security Administration may seek recovery of the last month’s Social Security payment.
2). Gather Necessary Documents
The SSA will likely ask you to provide various documents, including the death certificate, proof of your relationship to the deceased, and possibly your parent’s Social Security card. Be prepared to provide any requested documentation promptly.
3). Apply for Survivor Benefits
If you believe you are eligible for survivor benefits, ask an experienced disability lawyer to help you apply for them through the SSA. You may apply without professional help by doing so online or by scheduling an appointment at your local SSA office. However, you will find getting help much easier than proceeding alone.
Sackett and Associates Disability Lawyers has been helping people living with disability and their families for many years. We know we can help you understand and complete the application process and meet your obligations following the death of a parent who was receiving Social Security benefits.