Understanding Social Security Survivors Benefits

" "Unfortunately, tragedy can strike without any warning. The loss of the family wage earner can be devastating both emotionally and financially. Social Security helps by providing income for the families of workers who die.

Some of the Social Security taxes you pay go toward survivors benefits for workers and their families. The value of the survivors benefits you have under Social Security may even be more than the value of your individual life insurance. When you die, certain members of your family may be eligible for survivors benefits. These include widows and widowers (and divorced widows and widowers), children, and dependent parents.

Here are the people who can get survivors benefits based on your work:

  • Your widow or widower may be able to get full benefits at full retirement age. The full retirement age for survivors is age 66 for people born in 1945-1956, with the full retirement age gradually increasing to age 67 for people born in 1962 or later. Your widow or widower can get reduced benefits as early as age 60. If your surviving spouse is disabled, benefits can begin as early as age 50.
  • Your widow or widower can get benefits at any age if they take care of your child younger than age 16 or disabled, who is receiving Social Security benefits.
  • Your unmarried children, younger than age 18 (or up to age 19 if they’re attending elementary or secondary school full time), can also get benefits. Your children can get benefits at any age if they were disabled before age 22. Under certain circumstances, we can also pay benefits to your stepchildren, grandchildren, step-grandchildren, or adopted children.
  • Your dependent parents can get benefits if they’re age 62 or older. (For your parents to qualify as dependents, you must have provided at least half of their support.)

You can read more our publication Survivors Benefits for more information.

How much your family can get from Social Security depends on your average lifetime earnings. The more you earned, the more their benefits will be. For more information on widows, widowers, and other survivors, visit our webpage.

Social Security is with you through life’s journey. Be sure to tell friends and family about our Survivors Benefits and how we can help in times of need.

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93 thoughts on “Understanding Social Security Survivors Benefits

  1. i thought my spouse and were divorced- st the time of my filing for my ss benefits and he had died in 2010- but I cannot locate the divorce on public record and he and I did live together for several years post our divorce-as we we very close – but his severe illness made it hard for him to remain in my home, as he needed his family to help him to seek medical care but I was working full time and I could not assist him with that-so he returned to his family in illinoise.
    can I file a claim now to get his widows ss benefits for myself in Florida -since I cannot find record of any divorce on file?

  2. How can someone collect Social Security from a deceased former divorced spouse? How long should they have been married before divorcing in order to collect Social Security?

    • You would have had to have been married to your former spouse for at least ten years to qualify. You have to go to your local social security office with your marriage certificate and your divorce certificate, proving the ten years. You also cannot have remarried, UNLESS you are over the age of 60, in which case, it’s okay to be remarried (but double-check that). If you’ve remarried and divorced, that’s fine, but again, you have to bring in proof of that marriage and divorce.

      Also, his benefit has to be more than yours. You give up yours to get his; you don’t get both.

      After your ex-husband dies and social security receives the death certificate, you will receive a letter telling you the amount you will receive. You’ll start getting the new amount a few months after.

    • My brother`s death was 10-11-2019,How do I applie for his death benefits! who do I contactto stop his SSI so that their is no Fraud.

      • Hi, Ernest. We are sorry to hear about your loss. The Lump-Sum Death benefit of $255 (a one-time payment) may be payable upon the death of a person who has worked long enough to be insured under Social Security. Only eligible family members may be able to receive the one-time payment and monthly survivor benefits. For more information on this, please read How Social Security Can Help You When a Family Member Dies . Typically, the funeral director notifies us of an individual’s passing by contacting the local Social Security office. To verify this information was reported, call our toll-free number at 1-800-772-1213. Representatives are available Monday through Friday, between 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. You can also contact your local Social Security office directly. We hope this helps.

  3. I/am/ Rebecca/ Davenport./ and/I/ am/on/ widower.And/ I/ about/ /7/ months/ ago/I/found/out/ that/ I/have/MS.I// was/ woundering// Ifi/ could/get/ soom/ more/ help/ With/ my/health/ .

    • Hi Rebecca. We pay disability benefits through two programs: the Social Security disability insurance program (SSDI) and the Supplemental Security Income (SSI). SSI is an income and resources-based disability program that pays benefits to people with limited income and resources who are disabled, blind, or age 65 or older. Blind or disabled children may also get SSI.

      A surviving spouse may be eligible to receive disability benefits under her/his deceased spouse’s earnings record as early as age 50. Unfortunately, but for your security, we do not have access to your personal information on this forum. In your situation, it is best to contact your local Social Security office. You may also call our toll free number, 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) and ask to speak with one of our representatives, who are available Monday through Friday between 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. We hope this helps.

    • Hi Rebecca. It sounds like you are referring to disability as a surviving spouse. A disabled widow may be eligible for benefits if the person is between ages 50 and 60, the person meets the definition of disability for adults, and the disability started before the worker’s death or within seven years after the worker’s death. For more information about widow’s benefits, check out our Survivors Planner. Also, if you qualify for Social Security benefits on your own record, we pay that amount first. But if you also qualify for a higher amount as a spouse on your husband’s record, you’ll get a combination of benefits that equals that higher amount. For more information, visit our internet page titled Retirement Planner: Benefits For You As A Spouse. We hope this helps.

  4. I understand there to be given to the widower to help with arangements for funerals. My wife passed away October 17, 2018. I havent received any funds

  5. I waited until I was 70 to draw on my social security so I received the increased benefit for waiting. How will my wife’s survivor’s benefit be limit only to my full social security benefit that I would have received if I had started drawing at the earlier full retirement age or will it include the additional increased benefit I earned for waiting until age 70 and would it matter if she also was age 70 when I died?

    • Hi, Marlin. Thanks for your question. The amount of her widow’s benefit is based on several factors, including: your earnings, when you started receiving your benefits, her age, and the amount of her own retirement benefit. We compare her own benefit with her potential survivor benefit. If her survivor benefit would be higher than her own current retirement benefit, she would be eligible for survivor benefits. For more information, please visit our Survivors Planner web page. To learn how much she could be potentially eligible to receive, she can call our toll-free number at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778). Generally, she will have a shorter wait if she calls later in the week. We hope this helps.

  6. I DON’T THINK SOCIAL SECURITY IS ALL THAT GREAT> WHEN MY HUSBAND PASSED AWAY THEY TOOK MY EARNED SOCIAL SECURITY AWAY AND GAVE ME MY HUSBANDS BECAUSE IT WAS A FEW DOLLARS HIGHER> BUT STILL NOT ENOUGH TO LIVE ON WITH ALL THE UP COMING EXPENSES AND DEBT THEY WERE BOTH “OURS’ EARNED AND SHOULD HAVE BEEN OURS TO KEEP

  7. My Husband died ion May 10th, 2018. I am 72 years old and worked very little outside of our home. About one year before his death my Husband received a letter about his ex- wife having been overpaid before her death. She had been drawing on my Husband’s SOCIAL SECURITY number without us being aware of it. We filed for a waiver to stop repayment and it was granted. Only to my shock when my Husband died, I was not given his “Death Benifits”, it was held back to help with SOCIAL SECURITY’S mistaken overpayment to his ex-wife. Why was I punished for your mistake???

    • Hi, Karen. We are sorry to hear about your loss and your situation. 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 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m., for assistance. Generally, you will have a shorter wait if you call later in the day. You can also contact your local Social Security office. You can ask to speak to a supervisor on your next visit or call. We hope this is resolved soon.

  8. Hi, I’m a widow. How do I find out if my benefits will be higher than my late husband’s? In other words, can I claim his benefits when I’m 67 (I was born in 1961) and then claim my benefits when I’m 70 if my payments would be higher? I’m so confused. Do you have a surviving spouse specialist that I can talk to?

    • Hi, Victoria. 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 retirement benefit, you would be eligible for survivor benefits. For more information, please visit our Survivors Planner web page. To learn how much you could be eligible to receive, please call our toll-free number at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778). Generally, you will have a shorter wait if you call later in the day. We hope this helps.

  9. I contacted a disability “Uveitis” from a blood transfusion “Medical Mistake”, I am under Specialist Care, and am allowed to work under the “Ticket to Work”,program!

  10. Dear sr
    We have alot of thank to asking you
    We want you to give us more information about our SSN for my father’s missing some information and details of our SSN
    Now we have problems with our family because we are living in onthe countries because our mothers are from Arabian country
    Could you please help me and my brother and sister
    Thank you
    Best reagards
    Mohammed M.Giyash

  11. Thanks. That is so true. I do not mind working even as a survivor. Besides rewarding, I always felt good to be able to have done something also. Paying taxes and deductions are good. I will always be there. I hope to do more to keep social security alive. You are a blessing in disguise. That is a complement well deserved. Sincerely, Pearl Lee Thomas.

  12. (B) In making any determination with respect to whether an individual is under a disability or continues to be under a disability, the Commissioner of Social Security shall consider all evidence available in such individual’s case record, and shall develop a complete medical history of at least the preceding twelve months for any case in which a determination is made that the individual is not under a disability. See Social Security Act Title ll Section 223.

    Why is there such a long back log waiting list for a hearing with the ALJ. The ALJ no longer has to explain the weight given to a treating source. The ALJ only has to develop a complete medical history of at least the preceding twelve months for any case in which a determination is made that the individual is not under a disability.

    If the claimant was working and making SGA at the time of the treating source opinion, then the treating source medical opinion doesn’t support that the claimant cannot perform SGA.

    Why is the ALJ even wasting time and resources to develop a medical history while the claimant was still performing SGA?

    • If the claimant is making SGA, then the claimant must quit or get fired from their jobs within 6 months from the time of the treating source medical opinion for it to be an Unsuccessful Work Attempt.

      The other exception is if it was sheltered work after the treating source made the medical opinion. There is a strict definition of sheltered work.

      Stop wasting time and taxpayers money developing a medical history that doesn’t support that the claimant is disabled.

  13. What does my daughter have To do first if I die in order to receive any benefits I don’t have family per say to help her when I pass so if I could get the answers now I’ll be able to keep a file for her to refer to or her dad to help her get the benefits she is entitled to if any she is 12 now
    Thx Christine

  14. My husband passed away and all I get is like 259.00 from him but I also had my own and I retired earlu with ss because husband got bad and needed to be with him. Now is this what I get as he collected 2,200.00 a month should I have gotten more? Thank u.

    • Hi, Naomi. We are sorry to hear about your loss. 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 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m., for assistance. Generally, you will have a shorter wait if you call later in the day. You can also contact your local Social Security office. We hope this helps.

  15. These benefits were a lifesaver for my family when I was young. Last month unfortunately we lost our daughter in law. She was only 35 years old and left an 8 year old son who will be eligible for survivor benefits until he is 18 years old. Thank heaven for this great program

  16. Im a widower and my wife was getting ssi disability for quite sometime. She passed away in 2014.Am i entitled to her social security.

    • Hi, Bill. We are sorry to hear about your loss. You are eligible to apply for survivor benefits when you reach age 60 (age 50 or over if disabled). However, there are other factors that may affect your entitlement to these benefits. You can find more information on survivors benefits here. We hope this helps.

  17. I never see anything mentioned about SS payments cut when one gets a teacher pension, as mine are. I am wondering if my husband pre-deceases me, will my portion of his benefits also be cut due to my IL teacher pension? Most of my SS was earned outside of IL.

  18. I’m a widow my husband was murdered May 09 2017, I’m interested in applying for spousal benefits. His social security number is *** – ** – *** Mine is *** – ** – ***

  19. I was married for about 25 years my Husband stayed in Orgon Meadford.he passed about 6 to 7 years ago no one informed me his children didn’t contact me when i went to apply for SSI i told them about my husband being deceased said it would be better that I didn’t get sevivors benefits because i wouldn’t get as much is that true he work all his years so what happens to that money.Esmeralda.

    • Hi Esmeralda. For your security, we do not have access to your personal information in the forum. Generally speaking, a divorced, disabled widow may be eligible for benefits if the person is between ages 50 and 60, the person meets the definition of disability for adults, and the disability started before the ex-spouse’s death or within seven years after the ex-spouse’s death. Also, if you qualify for Social Security benefits on your own record, we pay that amount first. But if you also qualify for a higher amount as a divorced spouse on your ex-husband’s record, you’ll get a combination of benefits that equals that higher amount. For more information, visit our internet page titled Benefits Planner: If You Are The Survivor. For specific questions about your case, please call our toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778), Monday through Friday, between 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and ask to speak with a representative. Generally, you will have a shorter wait time if you call later in the day. You may also contact your local Social Security office. We hope this helps.

  20. I never hit post comment on the previous email I thought I sent, question was: Does a divorced widowers benefits raise if the widow passes?

    • Hi, Arlene. Benefits paid to you as a surviving divorced spouse won’t affect the benefit amount for other survivors getting benefits on the worker’s record. Other survivors’ benefits on the worker’s record also do not affect yours. If you have specific questions about your benefits, you call us at 1-800-772-1213, Monday through Friday, between 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m., for assistance. Generally, you will have a shorter wait if you call later in the day. You can also contact your local Social Security office. We hope this helps.

  21. Please Tell Me”WHY”SOCIAL SECURITY Pays The RAILROAD” MY SOCIAL SECURITY??(And,You Send”ME”Lonna Davi),THE”W-2FORM “(WHEN YOUR NOT SENDING ME “MY OWN MONEY THAT I EARNED?) I COULD REALLY USE MY OWN MONEY TOO!!! MY HUSBAND WHO PASSED AWAY IN”1996 WORKED FOR THE RAILROAD FOR”47YEARRS” AND MUST BE ROLLING OVER IN HIS
    GRAVE SEEING HOW S.S.(MINE)IS STEALING MY HARD EARNED MONEY AND HANDING IT OVER TO THE RAILROAD, INSTEAD OF GIVING IT TO ME???? I”SHOULDN’T HAVE TO BE ON GOVERNMENT ASSISTANCE
    (SECTION 8!!),FOOD SHELF,ETC:”?????
    SOMEBODY”EXPLAIN”WHAT IS GOING ON HERE? THE RAILROAD HAS THEIR OWN(SOCIAL SECURITY)
    MY HUSBAND HAD EXPLAINED EVERYTHING TO ME BEFORE HE PASSED AWAY!! ALL ABOUT
    “TIER 1” PAY… “TIER 2″ SOCIAL SECURITY!!! SO,”R.R.RETIREMENT”
    DOES”NOT” NEED MY”MONEY!!” AND,EXPLAIN”WHY YOU SEND ME THE”W-2 FORM???” AND I’M NOT EVEN GETTING THE MONEY????
    YOU SHOULD BE SENDING THAT
    “W-2″ FORM TO THE DAXX”RAILROAD!”…..”ALL THE GOVERNMENT GREEDY SCAMS!!”
    PEOPLE FIND IT HARD TO BELIEVE WHAT YOU AND THE RAILROAD ARE DOING TO ME!! THEN,THEY SEE IT AND SAY THE SAME THING I BELIEVE “” I SHOULD BE GETTING MY OWN SOCIAL SECURITY ALONG WITH MY HUSBAND’S(MINE ISN’T A LOT,BUT WOULD HELP ME LIVE A SOMEWHAT NORMAL LIFE) AND RAILROAD SHOULD PAY”ME” BACK”ALL” THE MONEY”YOU” PAID THEM!!!! “RECTROACTIVE” AS,IT’S BASICALLY”STEALING FROM THE POOR TO GIVE TO THE”GREEDY RICH”…..IT’S SO DESPECABLE,DECEIVING AND A VERY ROTTEN THING TO DO TO SOMEONE LIKE ME,AND SO MANY OTHERS???? SO,MR.MIKE KORBEY,
    COULD YOU PLEASE POSSIBLY EXPLAIN”WHY” ALL YOU”RICH” STEAL FROM THE”POOR?” AND”ALLOW” THIS KIND OF GREED”
    TO GO ON??? PUT MONEY BACK ITO IT’S”RIGHTFUL OWNERS!!” ALSO,GIVE THE”W-2″ FORMS TO THE THE”RAILROAD “ONE THAT IS STEALING THE MONEY!!! I WOULD TRULY APPRECIATE “VERY TRUTHFUL ANSWERS” I WOULD REALLY LOVE TO SPEAK TO YOU FACE TO FACE,EVEN AT A”PUBLIC FORUM?” I AM GIVING YOU MY E-MAIL AND TELEPHONE NUMBER
    bsfeb32@gmail.com
    #(802)288-0332. Thank-you,
    Lonna Davis

    • Hi, Rhonda. The amount of your husband’s benefit as a widower benefit would be based on several factors, including: your earnings, when you started receiving your benefits, his age, and the amount of his own retirement benefit. We compare his own benefit with his potential survivor benefit. If his survivor benefit would be higher than his own current retirement benefit, he would be eligible for survivor benefits. For more information, visit our Benefits Planner: Planning for Your Survivors. We hope this helps.

  22. My wife is a retired teacher. I understand that teachers in Texas opted out of SS years ago, but I don” understand why she can’t draw her deceased husbands SS that he paid into for over 50 years.

    • Hi Carolyn. Unfortunately, but for your security, we do not have access to personal information on this forum. In your situation, it is best to contact your local Social Security office. Or, you can call our toll free number, 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) and ask to speak with one of our representatives, who are available Monday through Friday between 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. We ask members of the public not to post any personal information on these forums, such as telephone numbers, Social Security number or email addresses, for your own safety. We hope this helps.

  23. My spouse passed away when he was 72. I am 60 years old and applied for Surviving Spouse Benefits. How long does it take to start receiving benefits after filing?

  24. My Husband passed away while he was collecting SSI. Is the percent of survivors benefits different than if he was collecting regular social security? I was born in July 1958.

    • Hi, Ramona. 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 retirement benefit, you would be eligible for survivor benefits. To learn how much you could be eligible for, please call our toll-free number at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778). Generally, you will have a shorter wait time if you call later in the day. At this time, we do not offer an online application for survivors benefits. You can also learn more information about Survivors benefits here. We hope this helps!

  25. My husband died 3 years ago this past August when I was unable to work & 8 weeks pregnant & my son & I still have not received survivor benefits or death benefit… He worked and paid to have these benefits for his family & now I’ve had to hire an attorney whom I will be required to pay attorney fees too now but no one is in any rush to try to help us. In fact, our file “disappeared”, another reason why I had to hire someone to help me get this figured out as to why my son is almost 3 & has not received any support from his deceased father. It’s been a tremendous hardship & I can’t explain the stress & what it’s doing to my health. Maybe I’m just another ‘rare’ incident that no one seems to want to help get our case resolved so we can move forward. I hope & pray no one else has to go through the struggles w/getting their benefits after losing their loved one & having a new born & all those additional expenses. Best of luck!

  26. I am a widow , about 3 years now.. My husband was born Aug.2,1941 and died on Sept.2,2016. Until this time I have not received his death benefits . Can I
    still file for his death benefits ? Please I need your advise regarding this matter.
    Sincerely submitted;
    Annabel A. Perry

  27. I am married to a filipina and presently live in the Philippines and collect social security. I am working on getting a visa for my wife to come with me to the states. I see that survivor benefits for wives require a social security number as part of the application form. She does not have a U.S. social security number. My question is would she need that SS # to collect survivors benefits if I die or do we need to live in the U.S. for a certain length of time?

  28. If you’re within the eligibility guidelines to collect social security after the death of an individual, how is the process/eligibility affected if that persons manner of death was suicide?
    I am working on a university paper and I am finding conflicting information. Thank You.

  29. If a wife loses her husband, has kids with said husband, the kids should get a survivor benefit. As well as the wife. If the wife remarries, do the kids that are getting survivor benefits, still get their benefits?

  30. I am 64 years old, can I claim spousal benefits now and switch to my own working benefits when I turn 70?

    Thanks for your prompt reply.

    • Hi, D.T. Thank you for your question. To qualify for spouse’s benefits, your spouse must be receiving retirement or disability benefits. Also, if you qualify for Social Security benefits on your own record, we pay that amount first. But if you also qualify for a higher amount as a spouse, you’ll get a combination of benefits that equals that higher amount. For more information, visit here. We hope this helps.

      • Hi. My name is I. Rose. Me and my significant other, have been in a relationship and lived together in CA for 33 yrs. CA does not honor common law in our state. Is there any way I could collect his soc sec benefits if he passes before I do? He is 67 yrs and began collecting his soc sec at 62 yrs old. I am 64 yrs old and will not collect soc sec until Im 66 yrs old. We do not have children, but we raised both his and my sons, and we all consider and love each other as a family. Do we have to be legally married for ten years in order to collect the spouses benefits?

  31. I am 57 my wife has passed away three years ago I was born am I eligible for widows pension at age 60 and am I able to collect?

  32. My mother died on September 21, 2019. I had to pay $3400 funeral costs as her only daughter and heir. She worked 32 years for the State of Florida. Will Social Security send me anything towards her funeral costs? She was collecting social security. If so where can I file a claim for funeral benefits

  33. My step daughter works for a lawyer said there was a new law that people don’t know about signing up for “Spouse Protection” so that she can receive my social security benefits without having a problem collecting from Social Security. Could you please answe this question for me. Thank You

  34. My husband died two months ago. Since my SS amount was higher than his, I chose to continue receiving mine and his check was stopped immediately. I have not received his allotted burial expenses and would like to know when I can expect to receive it.

  35. My aunt and uncle paid very little into SS in their lifetime. Unfortunately he was killed at a very young age and left my aunt to raise 6 kids. She collected SS for the kids until they were all 18 and then it all stopped. This is the story that I was told. She said she was not entitled to any more SS. He had Paid in and was also a veteran.
    Was she misinformed? Please help!!

  36. I receive the survivors benefit. Does the 1.6% increase in 2020 also apply to survivors benefit?! The letter I received did not indicate the increase. Thanks.

  37. A friend has court-appointed guardianship of her grandson. Friend’s disability will switch over to social security benefits in December 2019.

    In the event of friend’s death, will her grandson be eligible for survivor benefits — OR, does he need to be adopted by his grandparent.

    Both of the grandson’s parents are living, but have made little to no effort to help support the child.

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