Losing the income of a spouse who is recently deceased can be financially devastating to someone already emotionally traumatized by the death. The Social Security Administration explains that the government has a system whereby the surviving spouse and dependents may be eligible for benefits based on the Social Security taxes the deceased paid during his or her lifetime.
Are there factors that disqualify the surviving family members from receiving these monthly benefits?
Full retirement age is an important marker in the SSA systems, and it ranges from 66 to 67 depending on a person’s birth year. If the surviving spouse has not reached that point yet, then he or she can work and receive benefits, but the payments may be smaller if the income exceeds certain limits. However, at retirement age, the SSA adds back the previously withheld benefits.
Someone who has reached full retirement age can work and receive full benefits regardless of income.
A surviving spouse who has not reached full retirement age will have an amount deducted from benefits for every increment over the limit he or she earns. Income includes wages for those with an employer and net earnings for those who are self-employed. Other government benefits, money from investments, annuities and other income do not count against the survivor benefit amounts.
A surviving spouse who is taking care of a dependent who is under the age of 16 or who has a disability will receive the full amount of benefits at any age regardless of income.
If the surviving spouse remarries before the age of 60, then the remarriage will affect the survivors’ benefits. After the age of 60, remarriage does not affect eligibility.
The SSA compares survivors’ benefits to a life insurance policy that workers contribute to throughout their careers.