Elder Law Q & A: May 2016

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Q: Who is eligible for Social Security?

A: In general a worker must be at least 62 and have accrued 40 quarters (also known as credits) or 10 years of covered employment to be eligible for retirement benefits. Retirees become eligible for benefits on the first full month after their 62nd birthday. Covered employment means you have a job in which you and your employer pay Social Security taxes.

Q: Can I still get Social Security benefits if I was self-employed?

A: Maybe, if you are self-employed you are responsible for both the employer and employee shares of Social Security taxes.

Q: What happens if you don't accumulate 40 credits by the time you wish to retire?

A: If you don't have 40 credits, you cannot receive Social Security retirement benefits based on your own work record. To be eligible for retirement benefits, you must continue working in Social Security-covered employment until you have earned 40 credits.

Q: If I am an eligible worker for Social Security retirement benefits are members of my family entitled to benefits as well?

A: Yes, when you qualify for Social Security retirement benefits, certain members of your family may be eligible for benefits. To get family benefits, a spouse, divorced spouse or child of an insured family member does not have to have earned any credits on their own. There are limits on the total retirement benefits a family can get; some examples of commonly used benefits include a spouse who is 62 years of age or older and a divorced spouse who is currently unmarried and was married to you for at least 10 years. You must be divorced for at least two years.

Q: How do I calculate my benefits?

A: The Social Security benefit calculation is somewhat complex. But, in general, the highest 35 years of indexed earnings are used to compute a monthly benefit. You can use the Social Security online tool at www.ssa.gov/planners/benefitcalculators. The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) also offers an online Social Security benefit calculator at www.aarp.org/work/social-security/social-security-benefits-calculator.

Q: What happens if I work during retirement?

A: When you reach full retirement age you can work and earn as much as you want and still receive your full Social Security benefit payment. If you are younger than full retirement age and if your earnings exceed certain dollar amounts, your Social Security checks will be reduced by $1 for every $2 you earn over an annual limit ($15,720 in 2015).

Q: What is a "representative-payee"?

A: Social Security's Representative Payment Program provides financial management for the Social Security and SSI payments for beneficiaries who are incapable of managing their Social Security or SSI payments. If you are a representative payee, you must complete accounting reports annually.

For almost 20 years, the Elder Law Practice of Timothy L. Takacs has been helping families respond to the legal, financial, physical and psychological challenges presented by long life, illness and disability. As an elder law practice that specializes in Life Care Planning, we help families protect assets and coordinate care. Founder Timothy L. Takacs, Certified Elder Law Attorney, one of the most respected elder law attorneys in the nation, leads an interdisciplinary team of care coordinators and other professionals who work together to enhance the quality of life for elders. "Like" Elder Law Practice of Timothy L. Takacs on Facebook and see the latest from Elder Law Practice in your Facebook newsfeed each day. To learn more, call 615-824-2571.

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