Understanding Survivors’ Benefits
In the United States, some of the money that each worker pays in social security taxes is placed in survivors’ insurance plans. This insurance is intended to help the surviving members of a person’s family if he or she dies. The laws governing who is eligible for survivors’ benefits and the amount they will receive are complex, because they are designed to account for many different circumstances.
Survivors’ Insurance Eligibility
People who may be eligible for survivors’ benefits include:
- Widows/widowers age 60 or above
- Disabled widows/widowers age 50 or above
- Widows/widowers of any age who care for children under age 16
- Widows/widowers of any age who care for disabled children
- Unmarried children under age 18 (or 19 if they are high school students)
- Children who became disabled before age 22
- Dependent parents aged 62 or above
Other factors can affect eligibility, such as divorce or remarriage. A person may receive survivors’ benefits from a deceased ex-spouse if he or she is 60 or older and if the marriage lasted 10 years or more. However, remarriage after the divorce can negate this.
Survivors’ Insurance Payments
These benefits can be received in a lump sum or regular payments. The amount offered will depend on many factors, including the survivors’ incomes and levels of ability. For example, it is possible for people with jobs to receive survivors’ benefits, but they will probably not receive the full amount. A person may not receive retirement and survivors’ benefits at the same time; instead, he or she is allowed to draw whichever one is worth more.