The Importance of Social Security Survivors Benefits

May 31, 2017 • By

Last Updated: July 29, 2021

elderly woman drinking coffee Most people don’t like to think about death. We plan for life, for that day when we retire, for the places we’ll go and the things that we’ll do then. Unfortunately, death is a part of life we must prepare for. The death of a worker is devastating for the entire family, not only emotionally, but also financially.  

Social Security is here to help you secure today and tomorrow with financial benefits, tools, and information to help support you throughout life’s journey. Part of that promise is protection for your family when a worker dies. Some of the Social Security taxes you pay go toward survivors benefits for your family. When an income earner dies, certain members of the family may be eligible for survivors benefits, such as widows and widowers, including divorced widows and widowers; children; and dependent parents. The amount of benefits your family receives depends on your lifetime earnings. The higher your earnings are, the higher the benefits will be. The value of your survivors benefit is probably more than the value of your individual life insurance.

You can check your Social Security Statement to see an estimate of survivors benefits we could pay your family. It also shows an estimate of your retirement and disability benefits, and provides other important information. To review your Social Security Statement online, create a personal my Social Security  account. Your my Social Security  account is secure and gives you immediate access to your earnings records, Social Security benefit estimates, and a printable Statement.

When a worker dies, we recommend that their survivors apply for benefits right away. You can apply by telephone or at any Social Security office. For more information about survivors benefits, visit If you think you qualify, please don’t wait. Apply today.

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About the Author

Jim Borland, Acting Deputy Commissioner for Communications


  1. elizabeth M.

    What kind of information do I need for when a person dies

  2. Leeanne

    My. Nephew recently died. He was only 30. He. Has children 9 and younger from 4 different women. Two we aren’t sure if they are his. What has to be done to know if the children qualify to get social security money ?

    • Ann C.

      Hi, Leanne. We are sorry to hear about your loss. When a person dies, his/her minor children can 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 here. You can also visit here for more information about our survivors’ benefits. We hope this helps!

  3. angela g.

    i’m trying to get life ins and keep seeing different companies advertise on facebook, don’t know if they are good. can you reccamend a life ins to me?

    • Vonda V.

      Hi Angela, thanks for using our blog. Social Security does not administer life insurance policies. However, if you are working and paying into Social Security, some of those taxes you pay are for survivors insurance. Your spouse, children, and parents could be eligible for benefits based on your earnings. You are also protected when your spouse, parent, or adult child dies. You and your family could be eligible for benefits based on the earnings of the person who died. Check out our Survivors Planner for details.

  4. Donna L.

    Death of my husband prompted Social Security to acknowledge that my benefit would increase to my husbands higher benefit amount. Just found /realized that those higher checks have not been being paid. Social Security has realized this, as have I. Resulted in iunderpayment. Do I need to speak with Social Security to clear this up, or will they notify me that I need to do something to get the ball rolling?

    • Vonda V.

      Hi Donna, thank you for using 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. Please contact 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. Please be aware that our call wait times are longer than normal. We hope this information helps.

  5. Patricia J.

    I just want to say that I am thankful for my friend because SS was letting me apply for survivor benefits when my husband passed but did not say anything about needing to wait until I was retirement age to receive the full benefit amount or that I would never be able to recoup the difference. I was 63 when he died and then last year when I was turning 65 the retirement age was increased to 66. I lost $1700 per month immediately but have had to wait 3 years to get any of that back. I’ll be receiving $7?? beginning in July. I know a lot of words here, but I think I should have been informed about the age rule. People don’t automatically know about that particular rule and I feel like I was almost cheated out of over half the benefits I’m entitled to. Maybe that rule should be in the first paragraph.

  6. Tina C.

    My daughter died and left 5 children under 18. they were denied survivors benefits. is there anything that can be done:? also in 2006 my ex-husband died. I recieved benefits for my daughter but have recently heard of the ex-spous benefits. could I have received benefits then or could I now?

    • Vonda V.

      Hi Tina, thank you for using our blog. We are very to hear about your loss. If your daughter worked long enough into Social Security, there may be survivor benefits payable to the minor children. If she didn’t work long enough, then there would not be any survivor benefits payable.

      If you are the divorced spouse of a worker who died and you are not married, you could get benefits just the same as a widow or widower. For more information, please visit our Surviving Divorced Spouse webpage.

  7. Sandy

    My ex-husband passed away owing me past child support. Can I collect his social security benefits to clear his past child support?

  8. Debora b.

    I was getting My husband’s Social Security Benefits and it seem as if they have discontinued the benefits. I haven’t been notified of discontinuation. I am still working and maybe this is the issue. I also notice that the expiration date is next year March 2021. In 2019 the benefits stopped. Hope that you can let me know why the benefits stopped last year around the end of the year of 2019 ? Thank you.

    • Vonda V.

      Hi Debora, thanks for your question. 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 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. Please be aware that our call wait times are longer than normal. We hope this information helps.

  9. Bellee

    I am currently receiving Survivors Benefits from Social Security. If I sell my home will that affect my benefits?

    • Ann C.

      Hi, Bellee. Survivors benefits are based on earnings and are not subject to income and resource limits. If you are receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, your benefits may be affected. To learn what types of income can affect SSI payments, go here. We hope this helps.

  10. Gerardo A.

    My 18 year old nephew died in a boating accident on February 16, 2020. Although he worked part-time for just a few months in his short life, will there be any ‘survivor’s benefits’ or ‘monetary entitlement’ available for his parents? Thank you.

    • Christine M.

      I am approaching 60 years old. My husband died at age 39. Since that time I remarried and divorced. I am now single. I just want to be sure that I still can receive benefits. Thank you

      • Vonda V.

        Hi Christine, thank you for using our blog to ask your question. If you are unmarried, or you remarry after age 60, widows benefits are payable as early as age 60 (for a reduced benefit) or a full widowers benefit at full retirement age or older.

        Use our Survivors Planner to look at more details regarding widow’s benefits.

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