Readers of this legal blog know that we often discuss Social Security benefits, including both Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income benefits. We usually focus on the disability recipient directly, but sometimes, we also write about other beneficiaries, like children and survivors. Indeed, in a recent post, we wrote about how surviving spouses and young adults may be eligible for SSDI. In this week’s Del Mar, California, post, however, we expand this to Social Security survivor benefits in general.
Before qualifying as a surviving spouse, you must have a qualifying spouse. The way that a qualifying spouse gains Social Security benefits is through working long enough and making enough wages. These are calculated through credits based on the person’s age.
In 2023, you can earn up to 4 credits per $1,640 earned, and no one needs more than 40 credits per 10 years of work to be eligible. If your spouse meets these minimum qualifications, they likely qualify, which means, you may qualify as well. However, there are some exemptions that you should talk with your claims representative or lawyer to make sure that you do not de-select yourself from benefits.
The death benefit
The lump-sum Social Security, one-time death benefit is a lump-sum payment, currently $255. Generally, this is paid to the surviving spouse who lived with the deceased qualified person. However, if they lived separately and received Social Security benefits, the surviving spouse may still be entitled to the death benefit.
A divorced spouse may also receive this benefit as well, if they are caring for their child who is under the age of 16. Or, if they are caring for their child who has a disability and who is also receiving benefits as a result of that disability.
An unmarried child could also receive the death benefit as well. However, they must be either under 18, 18 or 19 (if a full-time student) or 18 or older with a disability that began before 2022. Any other dependent (stepchild, grandchild, etc.) may also qualify. They need only have depended on the deceased for at least half of their support.
In a future post, we will explore additional surviving spouse benefits that California spouses can use after their spouses pass.