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Are My Family Members Eligible for My Social Security Benefits When I Die?

When you have family members depending on your paycheck, you might worry about what will happen to them if you are no longer alive to be the provider for your loved ones. You might not have enough life insurance to meet the needs of a surviving spouse or disabled child for the rest of their lifetime.

A Michigan SSDI attorney can talk to you and evaluate whether survivors’ benefits will be available in your situation. Let’s address the question, are my family members eligible for my Social Security benefits when I die?

Who Can Be Eligible for Social Security Survivors’ Benefits?

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has several different kinds of survivors’ benefits available, but you must have paid the required amount in Social Security taxes from your paychecks over the years for your family members to be eligible. If you worked jobs that deducted money from your paychecks for Social Security taxes and Medicare taxes, you have paid into the Social Security system. 

If you meet the requirements for Social Security retirement or disability benefits, then your dependent close relatives might be eligible for survivor benefits. If you are not eligible for Social Security retirement or disability benefits, then your family members will not be eligible based on your earnings record. They might be eligible for other kinds of benefits (not survivors’ benefits) for some other reason, even if they do not qualify under your work record. 

Does Your Social Security Disability or Retirement Check Get Sent to Your Family Members After You Die?

No, the Social Security administration should not continue sending your disability or retirement monthly check to your family members after you die. If your family members do receive Social Security disability or retirement checks made out to you after you pass away, they should return them to the Social Security Administration. If they do not do so, they will have to pay back the money.

The SSA will calculate the amount of survivors’ benefits for each of your eligible dependents. The amount will not necessarily be the same amount that you received as your disability or retirement monthly check. Your family should notify the SSA at once of your passing and apply for survivors’ benefits.

Who Can Get Social Security Survivors’ Benefits?

There are four categories of family members who might qualify for survivors benefits through you:

  • If you were married at the time of your death, your widow or widower might be eligible for benefits. If your surviving spouse is not disabled, they will likely have to wait until they are 60 years old to start getting Social Security benefits under your account. A disabled spouse can start collecting Social Security benefits at age 50. Your surviving spouse’s age is irrelevant if the person takes care of your disabled child who is under the age of 16. 
  • You might have divorced years ago, but if the marriage lasted for at least 10 years, your ex could be eligible for Social Security benefits through you, the same as a surviving spouse.
  • Your children could be eligible for some monthly benefits from Social Security through you if they are under the age of 18 and single, or going to high school full-time and not yet 19. If you have a disabled child who is older than 18 and became disabled before turning 22, that individual might receive survivors’ benefits.
  • If you provided at least half of the support for one or both of your parents who are over 62 years old, they might be eligible dependents for survivors’ benefits. Sometimes, adopted children, step-children, grandchildren, and step-grandchildren might qualify for survivors’ benefits through you.

The rules for survivors’ benefits eligibility are strict and sometimes complicated. A Michigan SSDI attorney could help you seek the benefits you deserve and appeal a denial of benefits. Get in touch with our office today for a free consultation.