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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185 thoughts on “Understanding Social Security Survivors Benefits

  1. Claim for Lump Sum Death Benefit SHOULD have been reported by the funeral home in March 2020 but apparently was not. I filed the claim 5/6/20. It is now 6/17/20 and it is still processing. How long does it take to verify someone is dead?

    • We are very sorry for your loss, Terrie. 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.

  2. My husband passed away in 2002, I didn’t know that I was entitled to death benefits, is it too late to receive it. I would like to file for his social security benefits how do I do that?

  3. Hi. I’m a 65 year old widow. My husband’s estate may finally be settled in August so I may be getting my spousal award.
    If the spousal award is over 17K, do I only get one dollar for every two dollars I’m awarded?
    Does a spousal award count as earnings? Income? Is it taxable when I file for the IRS?
    I have a son with special needs. Can I get it put straight in to his Special Needs trust and not be taxed?
    So many questions.
    Thank you and stay safe and healthy.

    Thanks for any help or advice I can get from you.

    • We are very sorry for your loss, Teri. Social Security widow’s benefit are payable as early as age 60 (for a reduced benefit) or a full widows benefit at full retirement age or older. Use our Survivors Planner for additional details.

      If you need to apply for widow’s benefits, please 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.

  4. After determining what the monthly survivor’s benefit will be, how long does it take for the additional amount to be disbursed after I’ve received my monthly benefit?

  5. I am 65 and retired two years ago. I have been receiving my deceased spouse benefits since age 60.5. Is there anyway to determine on MySocialSecurity what my own full retirement benefit amount would be at age 66 and 2 months? Can I receive both now? If not, where can I find my current and future benefit amounts to determine if I should let it stay until 70 or not? Thanks for your assistance.

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