How can you help your parent reach financial stability? When a spouse dies, finances are far from the mind. Between arranging funeral services, contacting family members, and helping your parent survive, worrying about finances seems an impossible mountain to climb. But it doesn’t have to be. Learn the basics about social security widow benefits, income limits, and other important information you need to know now. Educate yourself now so you can prepare for the future.
Social security benefits help the surviving spouse pay bills, cover funeral services, and maintain financial stability. Throughout your deceased parent’s life, (s)he earned social security credits, up to four credits each year. As long as (s)he earned at least 40 credits (about a decade of work), (s)he earned social security benefits. Your surviving parent can receive these benefits. The amount received each month depends on several factors like disability, age, and income levels.
Unfortunately, applying for social security benefits involves many roadblocks. For one, you cannot apply for social security widow benefits online. Sometimes the funeral director reports your loved one’s death to the Social Security Administration. But this is not always the case. Accessing survivors' benefits needs to happen by phone or in person at a local social security office. Monthly benefits received after your parent’s death need to be sent back to the Social Security Administration. Your parent must return all checks. This can be difficult to understand in the middle of dealing with grief and new widowhood.
Financial complications add unnecessary anxiety and stress during an already difficult emotional time. As a caregiver, you might find calculating benefits confusing. Who receives benefits? And how does Social Security calculate benefits?
Several people may be eligible for monthly benefits. Any widow or widower over 60 may receive payments. Does your surviving parent have a disability? If so, a widow or widower over 50 receives benefits. Besides the surviving spouse, a minor might be eligible, too. Beneficiaries include adopted children, stepchildren, or even step-grandchildren. Older dependents, like elderly parents, might qualify in some circumstances.
What if your parents divorced? Remarriage does not affect social security widow benefits if remarriage happened after 60. As long as your parents were married for at least a decade, the surviving divorced spouse may receive full widow social security benefits. Each case is a little different. Speaking with a social security advisor would help you determine what benefits your parent can receive. If your surviving parent cares for a child under 16 or a child with a disability, additional benefits are available.
Does your loved one’s current income affect their eligibility for social security? If your parent has passed full retirement age, their income level does not affect their survivor’s benefits. In most cases, they can work and earn extra income without worry. However, income earners who have not reached full retirement age might see their benefits reduced. Does your parent receive Social Security disability benefits or Supplemental Security Income payments? These can also affect their benefits.
How does the Social Security Administration determine benefits? The more your parent paid into social security, the larger the benefit. It’s that simple. It doesn't matter where they worked - for the government, private sector, or even as a contractor. If your surviving parent reached full retirement age, they are eligible for the entire survivors' benefit amount. Widows and widowers from age 50 to full retirement age receive between 59 to 99 percent of benefits.
Benefit amounts change if the surviving parent cares for a minor or a child with a disability. Generally, a surviving widow or widower with a dependent receives a 75 percent benefit. Additional dependents like elderly relatives factor in the final amount. The Social Security Administration reviews the entire family when determining the benefits. They look at benefits already received, like disability benefits.
Regardless of the number of surviving family members left, Social Security does limit the number of benefits received each month. The amount typically does not exceed 180 percent of the available rate. If your surviving parent has not reached full retirement age and has earned more than $50,000 their benefits might be reduced.
You care about your surviving parent. As their caregiver, helping them manage financial security after the death of a spouse provides them with much-needed support. Unfortunately, many elderly individuals become overwhelmed after the loss of a spouse. They do not realize they are eligible for benefits and sometimes get drastically behind in bills. As a loving caregiver, you can partner with them through this process, ensuring they receive what they need. Educate yourself on the basics of survivors' benefits and work with a professional financial advisor. Help your parent not just survive, but thrive.