Survivors

Understanding Social Security Survivors Benefits

September 19, 2019 • By

Reading Time: 2 Minutes

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

Mike Korbey, Deputy Commissioner for Communications

Comments

  1. Russ S.

    My brother in law passed away 12/14. He was 51, his wife is 50 and she is on disability. If I’m reading this correctly does this mean she would be eligible for survivors benefits because she’s at least 50? If so what does she have to do to get that started?

    • Keith

      Hi, Russ. We are sorry for your loss. Generally, a disabled widow may be eligible for benefits if they are between the ages of 50 – 59, meet the definition of disability for adults, and the disability started before their spouse’s death or within seven years after their spouse’s death. In order for your sister to be eligible for survivors benefits, her husband must have worked long enough to be insured under Social Security. Also, if she qualifies for Social Security benefits on her own record, we pay that amount first. But if she qualifies for a higher amount as a survivor on her husband’s record, she’ll get a combination of benefits that equal that higher amount. For more information, visit our Survivors web page.

      For specific questions about your case, you can call us at 1-800-772-1213 for assistance or 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. Sandra D.

    My son had been receiving survivor benefits and he turned 18 years old in June 2020 and his benefits stopped. He graduated high school and is currently attending college full time. He has Autism and has received special education services all through his 12 years of school. He is a vocational rehabilitation client as he is in his freshman year of college. My question is, can he continue to receive his survivor benefit while attending college? If so, what does he need to do to have his benefits to continue effective in July 2020?
    If he cannot receive survivor benefits after high school, would he be eligible for disability benefits with an Autism diagnosis?
    Thank you for your response.

    • Keith

      Sandra. Thanks for reading our blog and for your question. The Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program pays benefits to adults who have a disability that began before they became 22 years old. We consider this SSDI benefit as a “child’s” benefit because it’s paid on a parent’s Social Security earnings record. SSDI disabled adult “child” benefits continue as long as the individual remains disabled. Check out our publication Benefits for Children with Disabilities and our Benefits For A Disabled Child web page for more information and how to apply.

  3. Virginia k.

    My husband passed and was receiving full SS benefits. I took the benefits at age 62. Am I entitled to full benefits now that I am 70.

    • Sue

      We are sorry for your loss, Virginia. Thank you for reading our blog and for your question. A widow (or widower) at full (survivors) retirement age or older generally receives 100% of the deceased worker’s amount. Your survivors benefit is not reduced because you took your own benefit at 62. You are also due a one-time $255 lump-sum death payment. For more information, visit our Survivors web page. If you were not receiving spouse benefits, you will need to apply for your widow’s benefit. To schedule a phone appointment, please call 1-800-772-1213 or your local Social Security office.

  4. phyllis b.

    my husband passed away nov 27, 2020 how do I receive his ss check to go into my checking account?

  5. Kellee W.

    my husband passed away 11/6 of this year. our daughter only knows him as her father. her father actually passed away 3/12/11 and she was receiving benefits from him. I want to know if I can apply for benefits for myself and daughter and have her benefits she recieves from her dad stopped when i have my interview this month.

  6. Nancy W.

    My first husband passed in 1978. I had survivor benefits for me and our infant son. I remarried and no longer had benefits for me of course. I was told I could resume it at age 60. I am 66. Is this true?

    • Vonda

      Hi Nancy, thanks for using our blog. Typically, a widow or widower at full (survivors) retirement age or older generally receives 100% of the deceased worker’s amount, a widow or widower under full retirement age receives about 71 to 99 percent of the worker’s benefit amount, and a widow or widower with a child younger than age 16 receives 75 percent of the worker’s benefit amount. For more information about how much your benefit would be, visit our Survivors Planner.

      To inquire on potential benefits, 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. Yvonne

    I have recently lose my husband. What is the process to received his benefits?

    • Vonda

      We are very sorry for your loss, Yvonne. 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.

      For additional information, visit our Survivors Benefit web page.

      To make an appointment to apply for widow’s benefits, 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.

      • phyllis b.

        my husband passed away nov 27, 2020 how do I receive his ss check to go into my checking account?

    • mary e.

      MY HUSBAND [PASSED AWAY RECENTLY AFTEFR A LONG ILLNESS WHAT IS THE PROCEDURE CONCERNING HIS BENEFITS?

  8. Terry L.

    Before his death, my husband was paying a penalty due to his delay in taking Medicare Part B. As his survivor, am I responsible for continuing to pay that penalty?

  9. Ronald n.

    How a neice or nephew who took care of their uncle for a period of times?

  10. Gary B.

    Hello. My mother passed away in 2017 and a friend says that I should be able to get her social security as a survivor. As I am the only surviving family member would I be able to receive any thing from social security ? I didn’t think I could as I am not not disabled. If I can are there forms that I need to fill out ? Thanks. Gary.

    • Vonda

      Hi Gary, we are very sorry for your loss. Children can get benefits when a parent dies. The child can be a biological child, adopted child or stepchild. A dependent grandchild also may qualify. To get benefits, the child must be unmarried and younger than age 18; a full-time student (no higher than grade 12) 18 to 19 years old; or have a disability that started before age 22 and is 18 years or older. See our factsheet on Benefits for Children for more information.

Comments are closed.