Survivors

Understanding Social Security Survivors Benefits

September 19, 2019 • By

Last Updated: September 19, 2019

" "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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About the Author

Mike Korbey, Deputy Commissioner for Communications

Comments

  1. Harold W.

    I am currently drawing a social security death benefit from my father that passed and have been for several years. I am planning on getting married soon and she also draws social security disability. Will either of us loose our benefits?

    • Vonda

      Hi Harold, thanks for using our blog. Check out our Frequently Asked Questions web page for how marriage may affect other benefits.

      For more specific questions, 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. Please be aware that our call wait times are longer than normal. We hope this information helps.

  2. Mable V.

    My husband passed away February 2021. How do I go about exchanging my benefit for his since he had higher amount?

    • Vonda

      Hi Mable, we are very sorry for your loss. There is a one-time lump-sum death payment of $255 that can be paid to the surviving spouse. You would need to call and make an appointment to file for that benefit. 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. Please be aware that our call wait times are longer than normal.

      You may be eligible for reduced widows benefits as early as age 60 (age 50 if disabled) and at any age if caring for the deceased’s child who is under age 16 or disabled and receiving benefits on the deceased’s record. Survivor benefit amounts are based on your husband’s earnings. The more he paid into Social Security, the higher the benefits would be. The benefits will not be established automatically, you will have to contact us.

      Check out our If You Are The Survivor web page for details. We hope this helps!

  3. jan n.

    How do I change from my diseased husband’s benefits to my own when I turn 70 years old this summer?

    • Sue

      Hi, Jan, and thanks for your question. You can apply for your retirement benefits to begin at age 70 to receive all your delayed retirement credits. Our system is set up to take applications up to four months in advance and when you’re ready, you can apply for your retirement benefits online.

      If you are unable or would rather not apply online, call 1-800-772-1213 or your local 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 volume and wait times are greater than normal. We hope this information helps.

  4. Roberto P.

    I am 60, presently marry and receiving SSI.
    Does divorce prevents a widow from receiving my Social Security Benefits?

    • Vonda

      Hi Roberto. 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.

  5. Marsha P.

    I have taken care of our disabled son since before he was 22 yoa and he is now 45 yoa. His dad and I were married 5 years. I became disabled at age 60 yoa and SS paid me on my record. His dad passed Nov. 2017. I applied for survivor’s benefits March, 2018. They gave me 29.4% payment of my former husband’s PIA. They said I would have to wait until full retirement age to get 100% of his PIA. (My son gets 75%.) I turned 66 (full retirement age) Dec. 2020. Now says I don’t qualify for his full PIA. I don’t believe that’s correct.

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