What survivor benefits could my wife and children get based on my Social Security record?

Today’s column addresses questions about possible survivor benefits available to spouses and children based on the worker’s history, how disability benefits are calculated, and the availability of benefits based on an ex’s history. Larry Kotlikoff is professor of economics at Boston University and founder and president of Economic Security Planning, Inc, which markets Maximize my social security and MaxiFi Planner.

See more of Ask Larry’s responses here.

Do you have your own questions about Social Security that you would like to answer? Ask Larry about Social Security here.


What Social Security survivor benefits could my wife and children get based on my history?

Hi Larry, luckily I’m not in bad health, but I’m just making a contingency plan. My wife and I have two children, ages 8 and 10, and we both work, although I am the one who earns the most by a significant amount. I have earned at or close to the maximum taxable by Social Security during the last decade and it was still relatively high before that date. If I died, what types of survivor benefits could my wife and children receive? Thanks Evan

Hi Evan, That depends on the ages of your wife and children at the time of your death. Children can potentially receive survivor benefits from their parents’ Social Security account if they are under the age of 18 or 18-19 and attend high school, or if they are any age if they are not married and disabled before the 22 years.

A surviving spouse can receive widow’s benefits if they are a) at least 60 years old, or b) at least 50 years old and disabled, or c) if they have an eligible child in their care who is under the age of 16 or disabled.

Eligible surviving children can receive up to 75% of the deceased worker’s primary insurance amount (PIA), and widows can receive up to 100% of their husband’s PIA, including deferred retirement credits (DRC) that the husband earned when waiting after full retirement age. (FRA) to take advantage of your benefits.

A person’s PIA equals their Social Security retirement benefit rate if they begin receiving their benefits at full retirement age (FRA). My company’s software – Maximize my social security or MaxiFi Planner – can help you explore all of your options so you can make an informed decision about which benefits to apply for and when. Social Security calculators provided by other companies or nonprofits can provide appropriate suggestions if they were constructed with extreme care. Better, Larry


Can I do something to receive a higher benefit?

Hi Larry, I started receiving SSDI in 1996. My amount that I receive now is $ 658 a month, is it because I didn’t work long and when I did it was $ 3.69 an hour working in department stores in 1996? I got sick with MS and had to stop working early. It is very difficult to live with this amount. Can I do something to receive a higher benefit? Thanks Julie

Hi Julie, Social Security Disability Benefits (SSDI) benefits are based on an average of a variable number of highest years of income indexed to a person’s salary, so the only way you could increase your SSDI rate is replacing one or more years of higher earnings. Assuming that’s not possible, then you’re probably stuck with your current lifetime rate, as SSDI benefits convert to regular retirement benefits at your full retirement age (FRA).

However, Social Security administers a needs-based benefit called Supplemental Security Income (SSI). If you don’t have much or no income other than your SSDI benefits and if you have less than $ 2,000 in assets other than a car and a house, you may want to check with Social Security to see if you may qualify for SSI benefits. .

You don’t mention your marital history, so I don’t know if it would be possible for you to qualify for benefits on a spouse’s or ex-spouse’s record. Better, Larry


When my ex-spouse retires, can I get benefits on his record?

Hi Larry, I was married to my ex-husband for 32 years and I have not remarried, but he has. I am five years older than him and I retired when I was 66 years old. So when he retires, can I go back to Social Security and try to get a spousal benefit? Thanks, Jamie

Hi Jamie, I assume you mean that you are already getting your own Social Security retirement benefits and that you started receiving your benefits at your full retirement age (FRA). In that case, you could only qualify for divorced spouse benefits if 50% of your ex’s primary insurance amount (PIA) is more than your own PIA. A person’s PIA is equal to the amount of their Social Security retirement benefit if they begin collecting at full retirement age (FRA).

Having your ex remarried would not negatively affect your ability to qualify for benefits on your account, but you would have to be at least 62 years old or receive Social Security Retirement or Disability (SSDI) benefits for you to be able to potentially be a beneficiary. Eligible for Divorced Spouse Benefits. If you think you may already qualify, you should probably contact Social Security as soon as possible to see if you are eligible.

When and if you qualify for divorced spouse benefits, your undivided divorced spouse rate would be calculated by subtracting your PIA from 50% of your ex’s PIA. Then that amount would be paid in addition to your own benefit rate, as long as you don’t start collecting benefits from the divorced spouse before your FRA.

So if 50% of your ex’s PIA is more than your PIA and assuming you didn’t start earning your benefits before the FRA, your combined benefit rate could add up to as much as 50% of your ex’s PIA. At some point, you may also qualify for divorced widow benefits. Better, Larry


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