General, Survivors

Social Security Survivors Benefits Explained

December 16, 2021 • By

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Last Updated: November 2, 2023

Elderly man looking out the window while reviewing tabletWe are here for surviving family members when a worker dies. In the event of your death, certain members of your family may be eligible for survivors’ benefits. These include widows and widowers, divorced widows and widowers, children, and dependent parents.

The amount of benefits your survivors receive depends on your lifetime earnings. The higher your earnings, the higher their benefits. That’s why it’s important to make sure your earnings history is correct in our records. That starts with creating your personal my Social Security account.

A my Social Security account is secure and gives you immediate access to your earnings records, Social Security benefit estimates, and a printable Social Security Statement. The Statement will let you see an estimate of the survivors benefits we could pay your family.

You may also want to visit our Benefits Planner for Survivors to help you better understand Social Security protections for you and your family as you plan for your financial future.

Please visit our website or read our publication, Survivors Benefits, for more information. You can also help us spread the word by sharing this information with your family and friends.

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About the Author

Dawn Bystry, Associate Commissioner, Office of Strategic and Digital Communications

Deputy Associate Commissioner, Office of Strategic and Digital Communications


  1. Lucy L.

    What can I do if I don’t live with my payee and my Survivors benefits from my Deceased mother go to them? I had to leave because the home is toxic.
    Please advise what steps I can take.

    • Ann C.

      Hi, Lucy. We are sorry to hear about your situation. If you receive benefits, and you and the payee are not getting along, you may be able to receive your own Social Security check unless the Social security Administration (SSA) believes you are not capable of managing or directing the management of your money. If you have a representative payee because of a physical or a mental disability, in order to become your own payee, you must show SSA that you are now mentally and physically able to handle your money yourself. You could provide:  A doctor’s statement that there has been a change in your condition and that the doctor believes you are able to care for yourself; or an official copy of a court order saying that the court believes that you can take care of yourself; or other evidence that shows your ability to take care of yourself. If you have specific questions, please call 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) between 8:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. to speak to one of our representatives. Or you can contact your local Social Security office. Generally, you’ll have a shorter wait time if you call later in the day. We hope this helps.  

  2. T J.

    I am 38 years old and have been receiving SSI since I was 20. My father died several years ago and I checked into receiving survivors benefits based on his work history. At one point I tried working a part-time job. Evidently during one month of that job I earned $100 over the maximum allowed to qualify for survivors benefits. This was solely because it was a 5-payday month. I assume this was the only one in my employment history, as the other months were not even close to being over the limit. Is there any way that this can be considered if I were to apply and appeal a negative decision. I haven’t previously applied, only spoke with a representative about it. It’s su

  3. Tammy H.

    My husband passed away 04/24/19. At that time my son was 15 years old. He has been receiving social security benefits of $1275.00 monthly since that time. He has now turned 18 and we were notified that his benefits would cease. He just graduated from high school on May 31 . He has been accepted to Marshall University where he will be a full time student for a full four year degree . My question is would his benefits continue as long as he is a full time student?

    • Ann C.

      Hi, Tammy. We are sorry to hear about your loss. At one time, Social Security did pay benefits to college students, but the law changed in 1981. Today, if a child is receiving benefits based on a parent’s Social Security earnings record, we pay these benefits to students who are taking courses at grade 12 or below. However, if a child is still a full-time student at a secondary (or elementary) school at age 18, their benefits will continue until the child graduates or until two months after the child turns age 19, whichever is first. We hope this information is helpful. 

  4. Marie

    Hello. My ex-husband (my 13 year old daughter’s dad) died in May. We have an appointment in July to apply for survivors benefits. Right before he died, he established a trust and his sibling is trustee. My daughter cannot get that until she is 21. With loss of income from child support, I am concerned about who will receive his social security benefits – will it be paid to our minor daughter or does it go through the trust? Thank you.

    • Ann C.

      Hi, Marie, We are sorry to hear about your loss. When applying for benefits for a child under the age of 18, we consider the parent(s) or step-parent with custody, as the proper applicant. Please call us at 1-800-772-1213, Monday through Friday, between 8:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m., for assistance. You can also contact your local Social Security office. We hope this helps.

  5. Cindy H.

    My husband age 62 and disabled died 2/23/22, I am 61 as old 3/24/22 and am on disability, how do I know how much survived benefits will I get? The amount that ss is giving me is only 1/4 of what my husband was recieved. It just doesn’t seem right and I want to appeal.

    • Ann C.

      Hi, Cindy. We are sorry to hear about your loss. The amount of your widow’s benefit is based on several factors, including: the earnings of your husband, when he started receiving his benefits, your age, and the amount of your own retirement benefit. We compare your own benefit with your potential survivor benefit. If your survivor benefit would be higher than your own current benefit, you would be eligible for survivor benefits. For more information, please visit If You Are The Survivor page. For specific questions about your benefits, please call us at 1-800-772-1213, Monday through Friday, between 8:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m., for assistance. You can also contact your local Social Security office. We hope this helps.

  6. Mary

    My daughter and I have been receiving survivors benefits for many years. She just turned 16 a month ago which stopped my benefits. I was told years ago when my benefits stopped her benefits would be increased, however they haven’t increased. Should they or Will they be increasing?

    • Ann C.

      Hi, Mary. Thanks for visiting our blog. For your security, we do not have access to private information in this venue. We ask that members in our Blog community work with our offices with specific questions. You can call us at 1-800-772-1213, Monday through Friday, between 8:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m., for assistance. You can also contact your local Social Security office. We hope this helps.

  7. Patricia G.

    I have a question my grandsons mom passed away in october of 2021and he lives in my house with his dad. how can we start the Social Security Survivores Benifits we are lost to how to start and what do we need?

    • Ann C.

      Hi, Patricia. We are sorry to hear about your loss. When a person dies, his/her minor children may qualify for survivors’ benefits as long as they are under age 18 and unmarried. Also, if they are over 18 and disabled before age 22, they may qualify as well. You can find more information on how children can qualify for survivors’ benefits when a parent dies by reading our publication, Benefits for Children. You can also visit If You Are The Survivor for more information about our survivors’ benefits. We hope this helps.

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