Social Security Benefits – What You Need To Know

April 20, 2023

By Mary Korkodian, Trust & Real Estate Attorney

Many people are unaware that a spouse, child, or parent of a worker may be eligible for Social Security benefits, whether the worker is living or has died. This benefit is especially important for families with children. This blog is intended to provide general information about family and survivor benefits but is not intended to cover all eligibility requirements. Please check with the Social Security Administration office for more information about your particular situation.

Family Benefits – Who is eligible while you are alive?

Current Spouse:  Your spouse may be eligible for benefits if he/she is at least 62 years of age, and you are receiving Social Security benefits. The amount your spouse will receive will depend on your spouse’s age, the benefit on your record, and the benefit on their record.

Divorced Spouse: Divorced spouses are eligible for benefits (even if you have remarried) provided: (1) your marriage lasted at least 10 years; (2) your ex-spouse is at least 62 years old; (3) your ex-spouse is unmarried; (4) you are entitled to Social Security retirement or disability benefits; and (4) the benefit that your ex-spouse is entitled to receive based on their own work is less than the benefit they would receive based on your work.

Children: Your child (including a biological child, adopted child, or stepchild) is eligible if (1) you qualify for Social Security retirement benefits; (2) your child is unmarried; (3) your child is under the age of 18; or (4) your child is 18-19 years old and a full-time high school student.

Adult Child Disabled Before Age 22: Your adult child is eligible for benefits if your child is 18 years or older and disabled from a disability that started before age 22.

Survivors Benefits – Who is eligible after your death?

Surviving Divorced Spouse: Surviving divorced spouses are eligible for benefits provided: (1) he or she is at least age 60 (or between 50–59 if they have a disability); and (2) your marriage lasted at least 10 years.  However, your former spouse does not have to meet the age or length-of-marriage requirement if they take care of your child who is younger than age 16 or who has a disability and is entitled on your record. The child must be yours and your former spouse’s natural or legally adopted child.

Surviving Spouse at Full Retirement Age:  Full benefits may be available for a surviving spouse at full retirement age.  For survivors born between 1945 and 1956, the full retirement age is 66. The full retirement age will gradually increase to age 67 for people born in 1962 or later. Reduced benefits may be available to a surviving spouse as early as age 60, and, if your surviving spouse has a disability, benefits can begin as early as age 50.

Surviving Spouse Taking Care of Your Child Under Age 16 or Who Has a Disability: The surviving spouse can get benefits at any age if he or she takes care of the deceased worker’s child who is less than 16 years old, or who has a disability and is receiving Social Security benefits.

Unmarried Children:  The deceased worker’s unmarried children, younger than age 18 (or up to age 19 if they’re attending elementary or high school full time), are also eligible for benefits. If the unmarried children had a disability before age 22, then they can get benefits at any age. 

Dependent Parents: The deceased worker’s parents are eligible for benefits if they’re age 62 or older. The deceased worker must have provided at least half of his or her parents’ support in order for the parents to qualify as dependents.

How much is paid in benefits?

A number of factors are considered, including age and worker’s benefits on their record and/or worker’s average lifetime earnings.  Check with the Social Security Administration office for more information about your particular situation.

What is the timeframe to apply for benefits?

Survivors must apply for this payment within two (2) years of the date of the deceased worker’s death, or the date the worker starts to receive Social Security.  Therefore, you should apply for survivors benefits promptly because, in some cases, benefits may not be retroactive.

How do I apply for Social Security benefits?

If you need to apply for benefits, call 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778). You can speak to a Social Security representative between 8:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information, please click here: https://www.ssa.gov/retirement.

Please Note: This document does not constitute legal advice. Please consult an attorney for legal advice on what to do in a particular situation.

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