Who Qualifies for Social Security Funeral Benefits?

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Social Security death benefits help survivors provide a dignified funeral for their loved ones.
Social Security death benefits help survivors provide a dignified funeral for their loved ones. (Image: funeral 03 image by Undy from Fotolia.com)

One of the most challenging situations a family must face is the loss of a loved one. For many families, the cost of a funeral is a real shock if they had not previously prepared for the costs. Social Security funeral benefits provide financial assistance to surviving family members to help pay funeral costs and living expenses.

Eligibility

Eligibility for funeral benefits is tied to your eligibility to receive Social Security retirement benefits. For most people, eligibility for benefits is based on 10 years of contributions to their Social Security accounts from taxation of wages. To ensure you and your family receive the appropriate benefits in a timely manner, you or the funeral director should notify the Social Security Administration as soon as possible. Bring all the paperwork you need to the Social Security office to prove eligibility.

Funeral Payment

Family members are eligible to receive a one-time payment of $255 to help pay for the costs of the funeral for the deceased person. Spouses receive this payment if they lived with the deceased at the time of death. If the husband and wife were living separately, the surviving spouse can receive this payment if she was receiving Social Security benefits based on the deceased's record. If there is not a surviving husband or wife, the payment goes to a child who is eligible to receive benefits.

Spousal Benefits

Spouses are eligible to receive full Social Security retirement benefits based on the deceased person's account. Spouses who are at least 60 can receive partial benefits. Disabled spouses are eligible to receive these benefits as soon as they reach age 50. Spouses can receive benefits at an earlier age if they are caring for the deceased's minor child, under age 16. A divorced spouse of the deceased who remarries after age 60 may still be able to receive benefits. Disabled divorced spouses can receive benefits at age 50.

Surviving Dependent

Social Security benefits are available to children of deceased persons who are under 18 and have not married, or children 19 years old who attend grammar school or high school full time. If you are the child of a deceased Social Security-eligible person and were disabled with a permanent disability before you were 22 years old, you can receive lifetime financial benefits. The availability of benefits extends to stepchildren, those who were adopted and grandchildren, in some cases.

Survivor Payments

The significance of survivor payments is that you may be able to receive sufficient monthly payments to maintain a good quality of life. The surviving spouse who has reached her full retirement age will receive 100 percent of the amount for which her husband was eligible. If you were age 60 at the time of your spouse's death, you will receive 71.5 percent. Disabled surviving spouses receive 71.5 percent at age 50. This percentage increases after age 59.

Additional Payments

A surviving spouse who is caring for a deceased person's minor children, under age 16, can receive 75 percent of the deceased person's retirement benefit. If the children are still in school, the age is increased to 19. Financial benefits are available for surviving spouses caring for disabled children of the deceased.

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