General, Survivors

Social Security Survivors Benefits Explained

December 16, 2021 • By

Last Updated: December 16, 2021

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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  1. Brenda

    My dad recently passed away and his house is sold where will his statement go? I have forwarded his mail to go to my house. Will it actually be forwarded or sent back. I need a statement so I can file his taxes and give it to the estate attorney.

    Reply
    • Ann C.

      Hi, Brenda. We are sorry to hear about your loss. The SSA-1099 is mailed to the last address in our records and is intended for the spouse or executor of the deceased. If you did not receive the benefit statement, the executor will need to contact the local Social Security office. You may have to provide proof of death and proof of executorship. An SSA-1099 can also be given to someone receiving benefits on the deceased beneficiary’s record such as a spouse, parent, or child of the deceased. If you need more information, call our toll-free number at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) and ask a representative for assistance. We hope this helps.

      Reply
  2. Patricia L.

    My husband recently passed away. I have a date for a phone appointment with my local SS Office. How will I show them the documents they need to see? I don’t feel comfortable mailing originals.

    Reply
    • Vonda

      Hi Patricia, thanks for using our blog. If you need to provide any documentation, the representative will work with you.

      Reply
  3. Kasseyy S.

    I’ve heard of employers asking (or requiring to see one) to see a SSN card, and, for people who’ve been homeless, or unemployed for awhie, it may be easier for them to show that–if they have it– then a birth certificate, particularly an original or certified copy. Or the other possibilities listed in the https://testmyspeed.onl/ infographic for work.

    Reply
  4. Jan P.

    My husband died 7 years ago at age 64. I am going to retire this June. It is my understanding I can claim his benefits until I reach age 72. We were married for 27 years. What do I need to do to find out how much his will be and how do I claim them

    Reply
    • Vonda

      Hi Jan, thanks for using our blog. We are very sorry for your loss. If you are the widow of a person who worked long enough under Social Security, you can start receiving reduced survivor’s benefits as early as age 60 (50 if disabled). If you are also eligible for retirement benefits on your own record, you may have an additional option.
      You can apply for retirement or survivors benefits now and switch to the other (higher) benefit at a later date. The earliest age you can apply for your own (reduced) retirement benefits is 62 and the latest age is age 70.

      You can get Social Security retirement or survivors benefits and work at the same time. However, there is a limit to how much you can earn and still receive full benefits. The amount you’re allowed to earn while receiving benefits depends on your age. If you attain full retirement age in 2022, the earnings limit is $51,960 but we only count earnings before the month you reach full retirement age. Beginning with the month you reach full retirement age, earnings no longer reduce your benefits, no matter how much you earn. If you’re under full retirement age for the entire year, then we deduct $1 from benefit payments for every $2 earned above the annual limit. For 2022, that limit is $19,560.

      If you choose to file for retirement benefits, you can apply online. However, if you would like to obtain a widow’s estimate or file for widow’s benefits, you need to call Social Security as you cannot do those online. You can call us at 1-800-772-1213 or you can call your local Social Security office. Please look for the general inquiry telephone number at the Social Security Office Locator. The number may appear under Show Additional Office Information. We hope this is helpful.

      Reply
  5. Ardel B.

    I have been on Social Security since I turned 62. At the time my husband was also retiring at 65. He was dealing with cancer and we felt that there was no danger of taking mine early because upon his death I would receive his. Wrong! Because I had taken mine early, after his death I took his because it was greater than mine. However, I only receive 80% of his check. This never gets mentioned but it is important to know.

    Reply
  6. Deborah D.

    Can I also claim my ex-husbands ss,I am a widow of my 2nd husband which I receive part of his ss, and I get my ss, can I claim my ex-husbands benfit as well.

    Reply
  7. Rosa B.

    If my husband is considered disabled by the
    V.A., can he be considered DISABLED by SSA, TOO.

    Does he have to apply
    w SSA FOR DISABILITY?

    Reply
  8. Robert I.

    My father my stepmother and my grandparents raised me my entire childhood,am I entitled to any benefits as they are all deceased.?

    Reply
  9. Sybil E.

    My 2nd husband passed away a few years ago. Is there a time limit when I can apply for benefits as a survivor to his award?

    Reply
    • Vonda

      Hi Sybil, thanks for using our blog. If you are the widow of a person who worked long enough under Social Security, you can start receiving reduced survivor’s benefits as early as age 60 (50 if disabled). If you are also eligible for retirement benefits on your own record, you may have an additional option.

      You can apply for retirement or survivors benefits now and switch to the other (higher) benefit at a later date. The earliest age you can apply for your own (reduced) retirement benefits is 62.

      You would need to call and make an appointment to file for widow’s benefits as you cannot apply for that online. You can call your local Social Security office. Look for the general inquiry telephone number at the Social Security Office Locator. The number may appear under Show Additional Office Information. We hope this helps.

      Reply
  10. Tom M.

    I’m getting on in age and receive higher benefits than my spouse. When I pass away, what does she need to do to have her benefits increased to the amount I am currently receiving??

    Reply
    • Fredia

      I would like to know this answer as well

      Reply
      • Emmanuel M.

        My mother had just passed away and I am the youngest sibling I wanted to know if I was entitled to her benefits can you please get back to me as my oldest siblings asked me for different information that I had to prevail to them but don’t know what road to take

        Reply
        • Vonda

          Hi Emmanuel, thanks for using our blog. We are very sorry for your loss. Typically, the funeral director notifies us of an individual’s passing by contacting the local Social Security office. To verify this information was reported, you can call us at 1-800-772-1213 for assistance or you can contact your local Social Security office. Please look for the general inquiry telephone number at the Social Security Office Locator. The number may appear under Show Additional Office Information.

          Check out our Factsheet on How Social Security Can Help When a Family Member Dies.

          Check out our If You Are The Survivor web page for details on who may be eligible for survivor benefits. We hope this information helps.

          Reply

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