Social Security – Survivor Benefits

By Melanie Hamerlinck, Associate Investment Officer

An important task to complete following the death of a spouse is to contact the Social Security Administration (SSA) if either spouse has started to receive benefits. In most cases, the funeral home contacts SSA to report an individual’s death; however, there may also be other important matters to discuss and consider in addition to notifying SSA of the passing.

Assuming the surviving spouse is at full retirement age, the survivor’s benefit is worth 100% of the amount that the late spouse was either collecting or would have been entitled to collect at the time of his or her death. If the surviving spouse is not yet full retirement age but at least 60 years of age, the benefit amount will be incrementally reduced based off the surviving spouses age at the time of applying for benefits.

If the surviving spouse is already receiving benefits on their deceased spouse’s earnings record, the surviving spouse does not need to apply for survivor benefits. The Social Security Administration will automatically convert the benefits from a spousal benefit to a survivor benefit once the death has been reported.

If the surviving spouse is not receiving any benefits or receiving their own Social Security retirement benefit when their spouse dies, the surviving spouse will need to apply for survivor benefits with the Social Security Administration. SSA will determine whose benefit is larger—the decedent’s or surviving spouses. The surviving spouse will be entitled to the larger of the two benefits as well as a one-time lump sum death payment of $255.

Keep in mind, you will need to call the local Social Security Administration office to report a death or apply for survivor benefits as neither can be completed online. If you have additional questions regarding Social Security survivor benefits, we would be happy to share a conversation.

Questions? Contact Melanie at 563.388.2628