Social Security “Life Insurance” or Survivor’s Benefits and You, Eligible?

“Life insurance” is how survivor’s benefits should be thought of when you are wondering if you should or should not make a claim with the Social Security Administration. Many people think of Social Security only as a retirement program. But some of the Social Security taxes you pay go toward providing survivors insurance for workers and their families. The value of the survivors insurance you have under Social Security maybe more valuable than the value of an individual’s life insurance policy. Afterall, would you allow a Life Insurance Company to keep all of the premiums and never pay an obvious claim for the money benefits you may rightly deserve!

When you die, certain members of your family may be eligible for survivors benefits. These include widows,widowers (and divorced widows and widowers), children and dependent parents.

• Your widow or widower may be able to receive full benefits at age 65 if born on or before January 1, 1940. (The age to receive full benefits is gradually increasing to age 67 for widows and widowers born January 2, 1940, or later.) Reduced widow or widower benefits can be received as early as age 60. If your surviving spouse is disabled, benefits can begin as early as age 50.

• Your widow or widower can receive benefits at any age if she or he takes care of your child who is entitled to a child’s benefit and is younger than age 16 or who is disabled.

• Your unmarried children who are younger than age 18 (or up to age 19 if they are attending elementary or secondary school full time) also can receive benefits.

• Your children can get benefits at any age if they were disabled before age 22 and remain disabled. Under certain circumstances, benefits also can be paid to your stepchildren, grandchildren or adopted children.

• Your dependent parents can receive benefits if they are age 62 or older. (For your parents to qualify as dependents, you would have had to provide at least one-half of their support.)

• Benefits for surviving divorced spouses:
If you have been divorced, your former wife or husband who is age 60 or older (50-60 if disabled) can get benefits if your marriage lasted at least 10 years. Your former spouse, however, does not have to meet the age or length-of-marriage rule if he or she is caring for his/her child who is under age 16 or who is disabled and also entitled based on your work. The child must be your former spouse’s natural or legally adopted child. Benefits paid to you as a surviving divorced spouse who meets the age or disability requirement as a widow or widower won’t affect the benefit rates for other survivors getting benefits on the worker’s record. However, if you are the surviving divorced mother or father who has the worker’s child under age 16 or disabled in your care, your benefit will affect the amount of the benefits of others on the worker’s record.

• How much are benefits?
How much your family can get from Social Security depends on your average lifetime earnings. A Social Security Statement, which is sent each year to every worker age 25 or older, gives an estimate of survivors benefits that could be paid.

• One-time death payment:
There is a one-time payment of $255 that can be made when you die if you have worked long enough. This payment can be made only to your spouse or child if they meet certain requirements.

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