Social security tax laws can be confusing, especially for those who are still in the midst of grieving a spouse. However, it's important for widows to take the necessary steps to safeguard finances. It's important to follow up-to-date tax laws as changes do take place regularly, so relying on someone else's previous experience is never a wise idea.
Under Social Security tax law, survivor's benefits depends on the age of the deceased at the time of death, as well as the number of the years he worked prior to death. Generally, the younger the worker was at death, the number of qualifying work years for benefits is less.
The widow can receive full benefits when at retirement age of 66 for those born between 1945 and 1956, gradually raising to 67 for those born in 1962 or later. Reduced widow benefits can begin as early as age 60, or if disabled as soon as age 50.
Generally, a widow at full retirement age will receive 100 percent of the worker's basic benefit amount. A widow who is 60 or older but under full retirement age receives about 71 to 99 percent of the basic benefit amount. A widow qualified to receive benefits due to raising the deceased worker's child under 16 years of age, typically receives 75 percent of the basic benefit amount.
A widow can receive benefits at any age if raising the deceased worker's children who are 15 or younger, or disabled. Additionally, a one-time death payment of $255 may be paid to the worker's widow or children if the deceased worked the qualifying years.
How to Apply
It's important to apply immediately for widow benefits. Sometimes benefits are paid from the time of application, rather than the time of death.
Widows may apply by phone or at any Social Security office. Certain information will be required, but no one should delay applying while trying to gather information or documents. Documents need to be originals or certified copies.
Documents required includes death certificate or proof of death from the funeral home, the deceased's social security number, the widow's social security number, the widow's birth certificate, the marriage certificate, divorce decree if applicable, the deceased worker's W-2s or most recent self-employment tax return, bank account and information so that the benefits can be direct deposited.
If the widow is already getting Social Security benefits based upon the spouse's work, benefits will be switched to survivor's benefits.
If the widow is getting benefits based on her own work, then Social Security will determine if it's possible to receive a higher amount from survivor's benefits and if so, the switch will be made.
If the widow is still working, the survivor's benefits may be reduced if the earnings exceed a specific amount. However, there are no earnings limit once the widow reaches retirement age.
Usually if the widow remarries before age 60, no benefits will be paid. However, if the remarriage occurs after 60 or 50 if disabled, then benefits will be based on the former spouse's earnings. At age 62 or older, benefits may be based on the subsequent spouse's earnings, if those benefits are higher.
Additionally, there is a special rule which enables widows to receive benefits if the deceased only worked one and one-half years in the three years previous to his death.
Right To Appeal
Social Security Tax Laws provides an appeal process for widows if they disagree with the Social Security Administration's findings. To do so, a widow must make her appeal within 60 days of receiving the decision--the Social Security Administration allows 5 days to receive the letter. Widows are advised to call the Social Security Office if they need help with the appeal.
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