When you die, your Social Security payments will stop. If you die before starting benefits, you won’t get the money you’ve paid in.
But sometimes, someone else can receive Social Security based on your record. That’s the case with spousal benefits, ex-spouse benefits and survivor benefits.
Another person may be able to receive a Social Security benefit based on your benefit — but they aren’t taking your Social Security.
If you have a spouse, ex-spouse or dependents, they may be able to use your record to qualify for survivor benefits when you die.
Your spouse will be eligible for survivor benefits when they turn 60 (or 50 if they’re disabled) if you were married for at least nine months and they haven’t remarried.
However, they’ll only receive the survivor benefit if it’s higher than their own Social Security. In other words, Social Security will give them the bigger of the two benefits, but not both.
Ex-spouses are generally eligible for the same survivor benefits as current spouses, provided you were married at least 10 years and have been divorced for two years.
If you’ve remarried and your ex-spouse claims survivor benefits based on your record, it won’t affect your current spouse’s benefit.
However, no one will receive survivor benefits based on your record if you’ve never married and you don’t have children or other dependents. The money you’ve paid in is simply part of the Social Security trust.
It will be used to pay Social Security’s other obligations.
Social Security has a maximum family benefit of 150% to 180% of your primary insurance amount. If you die tomorrow and you’re survived by your spouse and four children under 16, they’d still only get 150% to 180% of your benefit.
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