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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257 thoughts on “Understanding Social Security Survivors Benefits

  1. Hello there, I am married age 63 (Turning 64 in October) wife is 55. I will collect at age 66 and 4 months? If my wife starts collecting at age 62 and I die anytime after that Can she collect my benefits? The idea is to maximize the amount of money that we can use while we are still together. We’ve checked and our benefits at retirement are about the same So she wouldn’t lose anything.
    Thanks for your help

    • Hi David, thank you for your question. Your wife’s survivor amount is based on your earnings. The more you paid into Social Security, the higher her benefit will be. If you are already receiving reduced benefits when you die, survivors benefits are based on that amount.

      Widows 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 to look at how your family members are protected if you die.

  2. I wish to find out what my dead wifes social security amount will be and what I need to do to start to receive my wifes social security benefits

    • Hi Ralph, We are very sorry for your loss. If your wife worked long enough under Social Security, there may be benefits payable to survivors. You may be eligible for reduced widowers 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 wife’s earnings. The more she paid into Social Security, the higher the benefits would be. The benefits will not be established automatically, you will have to contact us. For additional information, visit our Survivors Planner.

      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.

  3. hi, im just wondering if somebody could help us reinstate my (5) children survivor’s benefit.They are all studying and no other source of income at the moment. The payment started Aug 2019 until Dec 2019 as we are waiting for our EAD or the proof of permanent residency which we just received it April 2020. Due to covid pandemic, we unfortunately have no chance to provided the additional documents to SSA office for them to reinstate the payment. When I tried to call the Mt. Prospect office, they told us to send the original documents and IDs by registered mail. I’m afraid that due to some unavoidable circumstances the documents might be lost. I’d rather make an appointment to personally bring the documents if you may permit.

    I appreciate your response on this and wishing you all a safe and healthy environment.

    Thank you in advance!

    • Hi Marzarene, thanks for using our blog. For your security, we do not have access to private information in this venue. Please continue to work with 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. I was told I could collect against my ex-husbands SS at 59 1/2 years old. What do I need to do the collect or see if I am eligible?

    • Hi Elizabeth. If your ex-spouse worked long enough under Social Security, you can receive full benefits at full retirement age for survivors or reduced benefits as early as age 60. You can begin receiving benefits as early as age 50 if you are disabled and the disability started before or within seven years of the worker’s death. If you are divorced and not remarried, you could get benefits just the same as a widow or widower, provided that your marriage lasted 10 years or more.

      If you remarry after you reach age 60 (age 50 if disabled), the remarriage will not affect your eligibility for survivors benefits. For more information, please visit our Surviving Divorced Spouse webpage.

  5. My wife just died and we have 3 children. 2 of which are in college full time. can the 2 in school claim survivors benefits for their mothers SS?

    • We are very sorry for your loss, Tonya. The children may be eligible for survivor benefits if their 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 factsheet on Benefits for Children for additional details.

      You cannot report a death or apply for survivors benefits online. 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.

  6. My father just passed away, he was not a US citizen however, he had a valid SS number and he was actually receiving his pension, he was based in Mexico. Now that he passed my mom is trying to apply to receive his benefits as a foreign spouse. She was recently asked to provide evidence demonstrating she also lived in the US for at least five years. She lived with my father but not as a resident or citizen. She is scared and afraid that this line of questioning might lead to non-granting the benefits. Why is she being asked about her living situation in the US with my father? and second, would her migratory status while living in the US affect her possibilities to receive such benefits as survivor spouse? please note she depended on my father 100% and now she is completely lost without his pension. She is based in Mexico.

  7. My husband passed recently and I need proof that I will be receiving his SS benefit. How do I get this statement as quickly as possible. I talked with a person at SSA and gave her all my information 2 weeks ago, but haven’t received anything that shows I will be getting his SS. Thank you for your response.

  8. Hello, My name is Rebecca Q. and I have a question please. I have been taking care of my elderly friend for 9 years. He has been my income provider. I depended on him financially, and he depended on me to take care of him, his home, his 5 dogs. He has passed last week. His has had no family members contact him the entire 9 years I have been with him. I know he has had to list me as his benefficary, what do I do now that he has passed? Am I entiteled to any benefits for myself or for help with his burial? Thank you for your time.

    • Hi Rebecca. We are very sorry for your loss. 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 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.

  9. My name is Lalitha Sastry I applied for death benefit and I am logging in to check the claim status and it is not working for me. they have provided a number to check and i am getting no where.
    w
    What am I doing wrong?

    • Hi there. 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.

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