Survivors

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 www.socialsecurity.gov/survivors. 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

Comments

  1. Arianne b.

    Hey i am 40 and on ssi my husband just passed away in September can i get any benefit from him we have been married for 10 years he had no life insurance or anything to help with funeral

  2. David

    Hi, I receive Survivors Benefits as a disabled adult with a disability that formed as a child, based on a deceased parent’s work record. If I marry, do I lose all of it, or part of it? If part, how do I know how much I’d lose?

    • Vonda V.

      Hi David, thanks for using our blog. If you’re receiving disabled adult child benefits on your parent’s record and you get married, the benefits will typically terminate unless the marriage is to another Social Security beneficiary. For specifics regarding your situation, you can call us at 1-800-772-1213 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.

  3. Lisa M.

    How do I know whether an account (vis-a-vis retirement) has been established for me? I do not recall.

  4. Mary A.

    Please help, have an adopted granddaughter who turned 18, (3.5.06) during the corvid, she could not even apply for the corvid funds. She does not live with me but I still pay her rent and food for her and her baby, I am an elder in a village. She had not had good communication with SS because she was told I have to set up her continued benefits (she is in school) and I was told I could not because she was 18. Can you help me to point her in the right direction? She is need of help.

    • Vonda V.

      Hi Mary Ann, thanks for using our blog. Your granddaughter needs to call us at 1-800-772-1213 for assistance or she can contact her 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.

  5. Larry B.

    Ok I would like to know if a mother pass away could her child able to collect her social security

    • Vonda V.

      Hi Larry. A child may be eligible for survivor benefits if the child’s mother earned enough Social Security credits through her work. Unmarried children who are under 18 (up to age 19 if attending elementary or secondary school full time) can be eligible to receive Social Security benefits when a parent dies. Check out our Benefits for Children factsheet for more details.

  6. Frederick C.

    I have a wife of 3 months. She is a Canadian living in Sisters with me. She trying to get her 485 form in. Do we sign her up with Social Security and get her a number. As my wife does she receive any benefits?
    Frederick C. Judy -0480

  7. Maria S.

    I will like to request a white and blue card. 4932 Rosehill St. PHILA, Pa 19120. Sincerely hope Maria D. Santa

  8. Elsa R.

    This is about two old couples receiving disability SSI payments. One died of pancreatic cancer, the other is disabled due to arthritis. Is she able to receive his disability benefits, or any kind of money? Can she apply for widow benefits? What is she entitled to?
    Thanks for your attention to these questions.
    Sincerely,

    • Vonda V.

      Hi Elsa, thank you for your question. The amount of a widows benefit is based on several factors, including: the earnings of the person who died, when the deceased worker started receiving their benefits, the widow’s age, and the amount of the widow’s own retirement benefit. We compare their own benefit with the potential survivor benefit. If the survivor benefit would be higher than their own current retirement benefit at the time of their spouse’s passing, they would be eligible for survivor benefits.

      Typically, a widow or widower at full (survivors) retirement age or older generally receives 100% of the deceased worker’s amount, a widow or widower under full retirement age receives about 71 to 99 percent of the worker’s benefit amount, and a widow or widower with a child younger than age 16 receives 75 percent of the worker’s benefit amount. For more information about widow’s benefits, visit our Survivors Planner.

      To make an appointment to file for widow’s benefits, call us at 1-800-772-1213 or contact the 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.

  9. elizabeth M.

    What kind of information do I need for when a person dies in this case was my son 32 yr old

    • Vonda V.

      We are very sorry for your loss, Elizabeth. 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 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.

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

  10. elizabeth M.

    my son dies

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