Social Security Benefits
We have recently been working on a block of workers’ compensation claims involving indemnity payments to spouses of deceased workers. While trying to design workable settlement options, Social Security survivor benefits have come into focus as an important part of the plan. The following are general eligibility criteria.
• A widow or widower may receive full benefits at full retirement age or partial benefits as early as age 60.
• A disabled widow or widower – as early as age 50 (pursuant to Social Security’s definition of disability).
• A widow or widower at any age if he or she is caretaker of the deceased’s child who is under age 16 or disabled, and receiving Social Security benefits.
• Unmarried children under age 18 or up to age 19 if they are attending high school full time. There are some circumstances in which step-children, grandchildren, or adopted children can also become eligible for benefits.
• Children at any age who were disabled before age 22 and remain disabled (per Social Security’s definition of disability).
• Dependent parents age 62 or over.
• Divorced spouses: If a divorced spouse dies, the surviving spouse can receive benefits if the marriage lasted at least 10 years and the surviving spouse is age 60 (unless disabled, then can become eligible as early as age 50). However, if remarriage occurs, there are special considerations that apply.
There is a maximum family benefit that applies in these cases. There is some variation in the calculations, but the maximum is usually between 150% and 180% of the deceased’s benefit amount.
Proper Social Security Benefits planning can be crucial to settling dependency claims and often makes the difference when figuring out what a surviving spouse will need as part of a settlement to maintain or improve his/her financial situation.