Q & A

I’m single with no kids…who will get my survivor’s Social Security benefits?

Complete Question: I’m currently 71 years old and started getting my Social Security payments about 5 years ago. I have no children, wife, or other dependents. I was only married once for a brief period when I was in my 40s. So what happens to my survivor’s benefits from Social Security when I’m gone? Should I contact them and tell them who I want my beneficiary to be?

Answer: In order for someone to receive survivor’s benefits on your record they would have to be some kind of dependent, such as a spouse or child. This also includes step-children, adopted children, and ex-spouses. However, it sounds like these situations may not apply to you, either. Any child would have to meet some criteria, such as an age limit or disability. You mentioned that you have an ex-wife, but you may not have been married long enough for her to receive your survivor’s benefits. In order for a divorced surviving spouse to get a benefit, the two of you would have had to be married for at least 10 years. In addition, she would have had to stay single at least until the age of 60 to receive the benefit. Note that these requirements also apply for the lump-sum death payment of $255.

If there is not anyone who meets these eligibility requirements, nobody will receive survivor’s benefits on your Social Security record, including the lump-sum payment. You cannot give them an alternative beneficiary. The only other potential beneficiary would be if you are caring for one (or both) of your parents and he/she is your dependent. Or, of course, you could always remarry! (Note that unlike other marriage requirement rules for spouses and ex-spouses, a widow(er) can receive surviving spouse benefits after only nine months of marriage.)

Research Analyst & Certified Social Security Advisor
AMAC Foundation
Notice: If you have any additional questions about Social Security survivor’s benefits, or any other Social Security issue, you can reply below. If you would like to discuss your situation privately, you can contact C.J. at cmiles@amacfoundation.com. Please do not provide any personal identification information, such as Social Security numbers.

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