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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258 thoughts on “Understanding Social Security Survivors Benefits

  1. Hello, My husband passed away in December of 2017 he was a week and 1 day from turning 66. He was on S.S. disability. I was able to start receiving his S.S. survivor’s benefits when I turned 60 at a reduced rate of 66%. I’m now 62 and was wondering if my benefits would change to my husband’s original S.S. when he passed? Do I have to apply for my own S.S?

    • Hi Belinda, thanks for using our blog to ask your question. If you qualify for retirement benefits on your own record, you can switch to your own retirement benefit as early as age 62 or as late as age 70.

      Our system is set up to take retirement applications four months in advance, and when you’re ready, you can apply for your benefits online. If you need assistance, you can 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.

  2. Hello, my husband passed away in 2005 at the age of 44, I have not remarried and I’ve started looking at my retirement. Is there anyway I could get an estimate of what my social security benefit would be If I were to claim his benefits at the age of 60yrs and also could I swap over to my social security benefits at the age of 67 yrs if it is more? I still have many years to go until I reach the age of 60 but I would still like to start planning ahead. Thank you

    • Hi Kelly, thanks for using our blog. If you are the widow of a person who 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. If you qualify for retirement benefits on your own record, you can switch to your own retirement benefit as early as age 62 or as late as age 70.

      For retirement estimates, Social Security has an online calculator called a Retirement Estimator that provides immediate retirement benefit estimates based on your actual Social Security earnings record. Plus, it also allows you to create “what if” scenarios. You can, for example, change your “stop work” dates or expected future earnings to create and compare different retirement alternatives. If you sign in or create a my Social Security account, you can use the Retirement Calculator which gives you the ability to plan for your future and compare your individualized retirement benefit estimates at age 62, Full Retirement Age (FRA), and age 70 with various scenarios that you select. Your retirement estimates are provided in both written and chart form.

      To inquire about widow’s benefits, you will need to 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.

    • Hi Gabriel, thanks for using our blog to ask your question. The children may be eligible for survivor benefits if their deceased parent earned enough Social Security credits through covered 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 Benefits for Children factsheet for more details.

  3. My husband died. I have been married to him for 1 year. He was 66 and had been receiving ss as soon as he was eligible. What do I do now to collect his ss check for myself?

    • We are very sorry for your loss, Teresa. If your husband worked long enough under Social Security, there may be benefits payable to survivors. 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 need to contact us. For additional information, visit our Survivors Planner.

      If you have additional questions or want to apply, 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.

  4. I am on disability SSDI, I also get a survivor check since his death. I will be turning 65 in March. Will I loose my disability and my survivor’s check. Will the amount change. I’m so confused. I am unable to talk to someone at the Social Security office due to volume of calls. Could you please give me some information. I would be so grateful. Thank you for your time.

    • hi,hello my husband is active duty im military abandoned spouse we have child and i am takecare until his growing up my dad also help me to take care our son i have diabetic since im 38years old i need med.and assistance now im 41 we are married me and our son dependant is there allowance me and our son we here in Philippines we want also togo state my son is big now turning 17year old.please assit me 2003 i got pregnant until now 2020 i dont have any benifits from ny husband me and our son.and also i dont have any sign of devorce but i have divorce degree i confuse i dont know what real fake the divorce or real.My husband do that in state but im here in Philippines he abandoned me and he have fraud happened while he abandoned specially the allowance my monthly support and the house rental lease my allowance he get all and he use another woman got married and im not yet any file for him.i have sick.from depression to be diabetics

  5. My daughter passed away in 2019 and I was given custody of and named the legal guardian as well as being approved as the Rep Payee for her children – age 17 and 12 (at the time I was named RP).
    The oldest has since turned 18 in September, so her benefit has stopped.
    I have spoken with my local SS office and understand that benefit amount will be added to the younger child in for October.
    My question/issue is that I am in the process of buying a house and the mortgage company is requesting a verification letter showing the updated monthly benefit for the youngest child.
    Since the Rep Payee portal has not updated (as of 10:15an eastern) to show his updated monthly benefit, how would I go about getting a benefit verification letter showing future payments?

  6. I am 74 and do not have the required credits to get ss. I have worked as a state employee almost my entire life. Am I entitled to any of my husband’s social security retiredment? He retired about 5 years ago at the age of 75. I am still working.

    • Hi Linda, thanks for using our blog. That may be referencing Social Security retirement benefits on your own record. If you’ve never filed for retirement benefits on your record, after including all the delayed retirement credits, the benefit could possibly be higher than the current survivor benefit that you’re receiving. 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.

  7. Hello, My husband passed away in September. He was receiving a SS check. He is also a veteran and was receiving a disability check from the VA. My question is simple I think. I am receiving disability also. Since my husband was receiving both a disability check from the VA and a SS check will I receive a survivors check? If so how do I apply for it?

    • We are very sorry for your loss, Rhonda. If you are the widow of a person who 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. If you qualify for retirement benefits on your own record, you can switch to your own retirement benefit as early as age 62 or as late as age 70.

      Check out our Survivors Planner web page for additional details.

      To apply for benefits, 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.

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