Kate Spade, Anthony Bourdain, and Those They Left Behind

How Early Death Affects Social Security Benefits for the Surviving Co-Parent and Minor Children

While the loss of famous talents such as Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain has spurred a national conversation on mental health and suicide, not as much has been said about how a parent’s early death impacts the minor children and co-parent left behind. Ms. Spade and Mr. Bourdain each had a minor daughter at the time of their deaths.

Premature deaths such as those by suicide and overdose—both rising causes of death in the U.S.—too often leave minor children at a loss of a parent. The surviving parent may face financial hardship in addition to grief over the loss of their former partner. Understanding the full benefits to which the co-parent and minor child is entitled after losing a loved one is vital to easing the burden of the untimely loss.

What Should Parents of Minor Children Do Following the Death of a Former Working Partner?

According to the Social Security Administration, 98 of every 100 children who lose a working parent could get benefits. Therefore, surviving parents should apply for child survivor’s benefits for any minor child as soon as possible. In the case of Ms. Spade and Mr. Bourdain, their children would both be eligible for child survivor’s benefits until age 18 or 19 (if the child is still enrolled full time in high school).

What About Benefits for Surviving Co-Parents? 

Surviving co-parents of minor children are often eligible for monthly benefits from Social Security to alleviate costs of caring for the deceased parent’s minor child. The surviving co-parent must be the spouse or ex-spouse of the deceased parent and have the child in their care.  

These payments are available until the minor child turns 16.

Based on this criteria, Kate Spade’s husband Andy Spade and Anthony Bourdain’s ex-wife Olivia Busia may apply for “child-in-care benefits.”  However, these benefits—like many other benefits from Social Security—are subject to an earnings test such that if the surviving co-parent is a higher earner, those benefits may be reduced (or eliminated).

To Receive Benefits, Surviving Parents Must Apply! 

The first rule of Social Security benefits is that you only receive what you apply for. If you are a surviving co-parent and you help your child apply for child survivor’s benefits, it doesn’t mean you’ll receive mother/father benefits; you’ll have to apply for them separately. If you wait a year after the death to apply for benefits, Social Security will start your monthly payments at the time of your application, not at the time of loss. You need to apply for the right benefits as soon as possible.

The burden of grief should not be doubled by financial strain. Find out what you’re entitled to immediately so as to not increase your loss. If you have recently suffered a loss, let us help.

Janice TamComment