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. Marie Elder

    I’m 54 and have been disabled since 2007. My husband was disabled in 2009 and flipped to retirement when he hit proper age. My husband passed unexpectedly in November 2020. Everywhere I’ve read states surviving widow (at my age cause of disability) would draw up to 71-1/2% of my husbands income. This would be on a MONTHLY basis right???? Now I’m being told i will only draw like $300 of his income each month!!!!!! This is world changing to me. I will have to sell our home, our vehicle and anything else i can to survive. Is 71.5% suppose to pertain to montlhly income??????????????

    • Vonda

      Hi Marie, we are very sorry for your loss. That amount could mean in addition to your current disability benefit. You may want to call your local Social Security officev for clarification. 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. James Rubenstahl

    Is an ex-wife entitled to any benefits when her ex-husband passes. She was married to him for 44 years. He got married again right away and has been married to another woman for 11 years. He’s 81 years old. His ex-wife hasn’t been married since their divorce

    • Vonda

      Hi James, thanks for using our blog. A divorced spouse of a worker who dies can get benefits the same as a widow or widower, provided that their marriage lasted 10 years or more. Benefits paid to a surviving divorced spouse won’t affect the benefit amount for other survivors getting benefits on the worker’s record. If the ex-wife remarrirs after she reaches age 60 (age 50 if disabled), the remarriage will not affect eligibility for survivors benefits.

      Check out our Survivors Benefits web page for additional details.

      To apply for benefits, she can call us at 1-800-772-1213 for assistance or she can contact her 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. Elizabeth

    Can my children collect death benefits if their father did not earn enough credits?

    • Vonda

      Hi Elizabeth, thanks for using our blog to ask your question. Your children may be eligible for survivor benefits only if their father earned enough Social Security credits through his 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. To inquire about potential benefits, 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.

  4. Betty Soderling

    will the SSA-1099 be sent out for someone
    who died in 2020

    • Sue

      Hi, Betty. Thanks for using our blog to ask your question. The SSA-1099 is mailed in January to the last address in our records and is intended for the spouse or executor of the deceased. If you do not have access to the mail at that address, the executor will need to call the local field office after February 1, 2021. 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.

  5. Alfredo Salgado

    Hi, My wife who was born in 1950 took her SSA retirement benefit at age 62. I was born in 1951 and waited until age 66 before taking spousal benefits while postponing my benefit until I turn age 70. If I start taking my benefit at age 70 and I die 3 months later, what percentage of my age 70 benefit will my wife’s survivor benefit be?

    • Vonda

      Hi Alfredo, thanks for using our blog to ask your question. 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.

      We are only going to pay the highest benefit amount from either record, meaning you don’t get both retirement and widow(er)s benefits but the higher of the two. For more information about how much your benefit would be, visit our If You Are The Survivor web page.

  6. Rob Martinez Perez

    Social security is not allowing me to file an application for survivors benefits what should I do?

    • Vonda

      For your security, Rob, 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 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.

  7. Ellen

    My children’s father passed away several years ago and they receive survivors benefits. If I remarry does this affect their benefits? What about if they are eventually adopted by a stepparent?

    • Vonda

      Hi Ellen, thanks for using our blog. Your marital status does not affect your children’s survivor benefits. Typically, the adoption of a child already entitled to benefits does not terminate the child’s benefits. For specific questions, please 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.

  8. David

    I’m 61 an trying to decide if to take at 62 or 66-10 mo [larger amount] my question, .wife has her own SS started at 62 {small amount] she is 64,5 now, when i decide to take SS an if i pass away will wife then get the amount i was receiving in full example hers $600 mo, mine $2400 per mo would she then receive $2400 per month upon my death

    • Vonda

      Hi David, thank you for your question. The amount of a widows benefit is based on several factors, including: the earnings of the person who died, when the deceased worker started receiving their benefits, age at the time of spouse’s death, and the amount of her own retirement benefit. We compare her own benefit with her potential survivor benefit. If a survivor benefit would be higher than her own current retirement benefit at the time of spouse’s passing, she would be eligible for survivor benefits.

      Typically, a widow or widower at full (survivors) retirement age or older generally receives 100% of the deceased worker’s benefit, a widow or widower under full retirement age receives about 71 to 99 percent of the worker’s benefit amount.

      For more information, check out our If You Are The Survivor web page.

  9. Judith McMahon

    My husband passed away Sept.1 and I sent the application and original documents registered mail and received the green card back that they had been received 10/1 and signed by LB. I would like to know the status of this application. Thank you

    • Vonda

      We are very sorry for your loss, Judith. 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 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.

  10. Lenore

    Hello
    I have been widowed twice.
    Both of my marriages were over 10 years.
    My current husband passed away Dec 8, 2020. My survivor benefit application had a section for each of my late husbands. Is it possible I will receive both? I am 66 years old . I started collecting at age 62. Thank you.

    • Vonda

      Hello Lenore, thanks for using our blog. It is possible for a person to be eligible for benefits from different records at the same time. However, we are only going to pay the highest benefit amount from either record – meaning that you will only be allowed to receive one payment.

      If you are the (unmarried/single) widow of a person who worked long enough under Social Security, you can start receiving reduced survivor’s benefits as early as age 60 (50 if disabled). If you are also eligible for retirement benefits on your own record, you may have an additional option. You can apply for retirement or survivors benefits now and switch to the other (higher) benefit at a later date.

      We hope this information helps!

Comments are closed.