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. SHIRLEY VELEBA

    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

  2. Marlin Milbrath

    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?

    • Ann C., Public Affairs Specialist

      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.

  3. Alan Brickman

    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

    • Luis A., Public Affairs Specialist

      Hi Alan. We are sorry to hear about your loss. To receive the lump sum death payment of $255, you need to schedule an phone appointment with us to complete an application. You may 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. You may also visit your local Social Security office.

      In addition, you may be eligible to receive monthly survivors benefits. For more information, please read our publication titled “How Social Security Can Help You When a Family Member Dies.” We hope this information helps.

    • Luis A., Public Affairs Specialist

      Hi Alan. We are sorry to hear about your loss. To receive the lump sum death payment of $255, please contact us to schedule a phone appointment. You may call our toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778), Monday through Friday, between 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. and ask to speak with one of our representatives. Generally, you will have a shorter wait if you call later in the day. You may also contact your local Social Security office.

      In addition, you may be eligible to receive monthly survivors benefits. For more information, please read our publication titled “How Social Security Can Help You When a Family Member Dies.” We hope this information helps.

  4. Ronda

    Why was i asked to get a physical when my husband passed and i refused i was DENIED widows benefits when my husband passed

    • Maggie

      To get Survivor’s Social Security benefits you should be 60, or disabled, that’s why they wanted to give you a physical I guess. I was 50 years old when my husband passed, and I didn’t get anything till I turned 60.

  5. Rebecca/ Davenport

    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/ .

    • Luis A., Public Affairs Specialist

      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.

  6. Mary Gaito

    How do you collect the benefit for burial?

    • Ernest A Owens Sr

      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.

      • Ann C., Public Affairs Specialist

        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.

  7. Kathleen Wallace

    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?

    • Sunny

      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.

      • Bonnie Scott

        If I am receiving spousal devoted benifits is it ok to remarry

  8. Carl Stock

    I am on Social Security now. If I die, when will my wife start getting it? She is only 59.

    Thanks

  9. BRENDA S. RANDALL

    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?

  10. lesly francois

    My brother inlaw die can i get benefits ssa surviver from hem.he was work and pay ssa taxes.

    • Prc

      No.

      • Dale Ostergard

        ?

        • Janna sword

          The policy of not granting benefits to a widow who retired from USPS. Is just wrong.i lost my husband from lung cancer. By y the time I pay insurance.i am barely above poverty level
          This is means testing,most who are in t jo is situation are women which is discrimination.I did not make a huge salary.we should get women’s organizations and file discrimination.not all fed employees make big money!!!

    • Tom

      No. You should open the link to the Survivor Benefits publication. You are not a widow or widower.

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    • Luis A., Public Affairs Specialist

      Hi Lesly. We are sorry to hear about your loss. Widows and widowers, divorced widows and widowers, unmarried children, and dependent parents may be eligible for Social Security survivors benefits. For more information about survivor’s benefits, and the eligibility requirements, please visit our internet page, Benefits Planner: Survivors | If You Are The Survivor. We hope this helps.

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