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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166 thoughts on “Understanding Social Security Survivors Benefits

  1. My childs father passed away recently and he was behind on child support. Am i able to apply for survivor benefits for my child and if so how do i go about doing so?

    • We are very sorry for your loss, Cherita. Your child may be eligible for survivor benefits if the child’s 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 will need to 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. My spouse and I were separated, not divorced. He passed away in 2013. He was born in 1951 and I was born in 1957. Can I collect his benefit and where can I get information regarding separation benefits?

    • Hi RoseMarie, thank you for your question. If you are the widow of a person who worked long enough under Social Security, you may be eligible for benefits. 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.

  3. My wife died on April 9Th . I received $1,200 on her behalf and I deposited it in our joint account. Do I need to return it, if so how?

  4. I am currently employed and have been receiving some survivor benefits for my deceased ex-spouse according to the guidelines. When I retire can I change this to my own benefits if the amount is higher?

  5. My Mom is now 93, In 2014 my sister passed away who was her caregiver. She has been living with since since 2014. Mom depended on her for more than half of her support. Can she receive survivor benefits from my sisters social security? We had an appeal case in 2017 but we never received any updates and then we moved.

  6. An SSA rep told my wife that since she was born in 1954 she qualifies for a benefit that gives her a reduced rate at age 66 and she can receive that reduced until 70 years of age. Then she can receive a much higher rate than the rate she would have received at 66. Can you explain this program that SSA offers?

  7. I am not sure if or when I can expect to receive stimulus check. Will it come when my survivors benefits come?

  8. My daughters father passed away a two years ago is it still possible for her to receive benefits for him?

    • We are very sorry for your loss, BreOnie. Your daughter may be eligible for survivor benefits if her 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 will have 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.

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