As seniors age, life planning issues become more important. Part of the process of life planning is ensuring that loved ones left behind after death are financially secure, but many seniors wonder whether or not there is a death benefit involved in passing on Social Security income. Many financial retirement plans, including individual retirement accounts, can be passed on to loved ones, and if you and your family rely on your Social Security income for financial stability, it’s important to understand what you can and cannot pass on.

Does Social Security Have a Death Benefit?

The Social Security Administration does provide a few ways in which survivor benefits can be obtained. First, a lump sum is offered to a surviving spouse or other named beneficiary who is a surviving family member. This is a one-time payment, and the amount is currently $255.

Second, you may also be able to pass on your monthly Social Security payments, but there are a number of criteria to meet in order for a surviving family member to qualify. These payments are based on the total amount of taxable earnings over the course of the deceased’s work history. Essentially, the longer someone has worked and the more he or she has paid into Social Security, the larger the monthly payment will be.

In order to receive benefits, the survivor must not be receiving Social Security currently. If so, the survivor will only receive one payment, and this payment will be the higher of the two between your benefit and his or hers. Also, the survivor’s benefit is based on the age of the survivor. If a spouse receives your monthly Social Security payment, he or she can receive 100% of the amount at full retirement age. This age depends on the year the surviving spouse was born. If the benefit is claimed earlier, the amount will be reduced.

You should keep in mind that Social Security is a separate entity from other retirement benefits programs, including Medicare. Please also note that Medicare benefits cannot be passed on to a surviving spouse, nor can they be used for anyone other than yourself while you are living.

Can Children Receive Social Security Death Benefits?

In order for a child to receive a Social Security death benefit, he or she must be a minor under the age of 18. Additionally, a disabled child over the age of 18 who was qualified as disabled before the age of 22 can receive your death benefit. Regardless of the situation, a child who is seeking to receive your death benefit must be unmarried. Once again, Medicare benefits can not be passed on after death.

Talk to Planning Professionals

No matter your situation or age, it’s vital to have a plan in place to address your finances after you have passed on. Even if you have no living family members, you will want to ensure that your estate is taken care of and that financial obligations are met. To learn more about your Social Security death benefit options, contact the Social Security Administration directly through its website. You can also seek out independent planning services from tax attorneys, financial planners, estate planners and other financial professionals who can evaluate the needs of your loved ones and recommend a plan of action to help you maximize the amount of money that you are able to pass on.

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