Retiree’s bump up in Social Security isn’t automatic at death of spouse

The surviving spouse of a Social Security recipient is entitled to a “bump up” in their benefits if the deceased spouse received a higher monthly benefit than the survivor was receiving. Typically, the funeral director notifies the Social Security Administration about the death.

Don’t assume that this notification suffices to preserve eligiblity for the widow’s benefit. It doesn’t.  The widow or widower still has to file an application for survivor’s benefits. It needs to be filed quickly — benefits aren’t retroactive more than 60 days prior to the date of application.  Here’s the form.

The application can only be done two ways —  in person (when Social Security offices re-open after the COVID-19 pandemic eases) or by telephone by calling 1-800-772-1213 or the local office. It cannot be done online, even though other applications are filed on line.

Social Security provide an array of benefits to surviving spouses. In addition to the potential bump up for the retiree, a surviving spouse can receive a lump-sum death benefit of $255.00 provided that the spouses were living together. A  spouse who wasn’t insured under his/her own earnings record can receive full benefits at full retirement age for survivors or reduced benefits as early as age 60. If the surviving spouse qualifies for retirement benefits on his/her own record, they can receive spousal benefits starting at age 60 and switch to their own retirement benefit without the early-receipt penalty as early as age 62. If the surviving spouse is disabled and the disability started before or within seven years of the worker’s death, s/he can receive benefits as early as age 50 based on the deceased spouse’s earnings record.

All of these potential family benefits are, of course, good reasons for workers to be “on the grid” and paying into the Social Security system.  And when there’s been a major family life incident,  contact the SSA to see what benefits are available to you and your dependents

Call us for advice on senior care planning including wills, trusts and estate administration … 732-382-6070