Social Security Survivor Benefits

Several variables affect how to apply for Social Security survivor benefits. You can learn more about survivors benefits in this article, which also explains what to anticipate from Social Security in the event that you or a loved one passes away.

What is Social Security Survivor Benefits ?

It hurts to lose a partner. When you soon after have to make difficult financial decisions, it might be even harder. One of those decisions is whether and when to begin receiving Social Security. The SSA offers “Survivor’s Benefits” for certain individuals, to help reduce the financial impact of a worker’s death on their family.

You should consider what your family would require if you were to pass away while you make your future plans. If you have accumulated enough Social Security credits via your employment, Social Security Survivor Benefits may be able to assist your family.

You should think about the Social Security benefits that might be available if you are the survivor, that is, the spouse, child, or parent of a worker who dies, just as you plan for your family's security in the event that you pass away. To be eligible for benefits under Social Security, that person must have worked for a sufficient amount of time.

If you pass away, your family can be eligible for survivors benefits. Widows, widowers, and dependents of qualified workers get Social Security survivors benefits. This benefit is crucial for young families with kids in particular. Your spouse or dependents may qualify for survivor benefits in the case of your passing if you are eligible to receive Social Security payments upon retirement. But the regulations can be challenging, much like with many federal programs.

When a family member passes away, you can be eligible for survivors benefits. Based on the deceased employee's earnings, you and your family may be qualified for benefits. For benefits, the deceased person had to have accrued sufficient employment.

Your age at death will determine how many credits are required to give benefits for your survivors. For someone to be eligible for any Social Security benefit, no more than 40 credits (10 years of employment) are required. However, the fewer credits a person needs to have in order for their family to obtain survivors benefits, the younger they are. If the worker earned six credits—or the equivalent of one and a half years of work—in the three years preceding their death, some survivors may be eligible for payments.

Up to four credits may be earned annually. For instance, in 2022, you would receive one credit for every $1,510 in salary or self-employment income. Your four credits for the year are obtained once you have earned $6,040.

Key Facts of Social Security Survivor Benefits

  • Your family members may be eligible for survivor benefits after you pass away if you are eligible to receive Social Security benefits when you retire.
  • Widows, widowers, minor children, elder disabled children, and dependent parents of the deceased are all eligible for social security survivor benefits.
  • There are situations when benefits are also available for adopted children, stepchildren, grandchildren and step-grandchildren.
  • Benefit levels are determined by a number of variables, including the survivor's relationship to the deceased.
  • Survivor benefit credits must be accrued during the course of 10 years of employment and contributions to the Social Security trust fund.

How Does Social Security Survivor Benefits Works ?

Social Security survivor benefits were paid to more than 5.9 million people in May 2022. The spouse, ex-spouse, or children of someone who was receiving or qualified for Social Security benefits normally get these monthly payments. In some cases, a deceased worker's parents, grandchildren, or stepchildren may also be eligible for survivor benefits. The amount of Social Security benefits the deceased was receiving at the time of death is typically the basis for surviving benefits.

The majority of recipients—about two thirds—are widows or widowers. Depending on the survivor's age, they can begin receiving survivor benefits at age 60 (or age 50 if they are disabled), at amounts that range from 71.5 percent to 100 percent of the deceased spouse's Social Security income. There is a special circumstance where there is no minimum age requirement and the survivor benefit is equal to 75% of the deceased's Social Security income if you are caring for a deceased kid who is under 16 or disabled.

When your spouse passes away or when you reach your earliest eligibility age, you do not have to file a claim for survivor benefits. There is no deadline for filing, and if you wait to claim them until you are fully eligible for retirement, they will increase. Full retirement age for survivor benefits is presently 66, but it will gradually increase to 67 over the following several years.

However, it can make sense to file as soon as feasible after the death is reported to Social Security, depending on your financial condition. Benefits for survivors are paid out starting at the time you apply, not when you passed away.

Who is Eligible for Social Security Survivor Benefits ?

Depending on your earnings at the time of your death, your family members may be entitled for benefits. If your deceased spouse or previous spouse contributed sufficiently to Social Security over a sufficient period of time, you and your children may also be eligible for payments.

Certain family members are eligible for survivor benefits, including:

1) Widows and Widowers :
Benefits available to widows and widowers include :
  • At least 60 years old.
  • At age 50 or older if disabled.
  • At any age if they take care of a child of the deceased who is younger than age 16 or disabled.

2) Divorced Widows and Widowers :
Benefits available to divorced widows and widowers include:
  • If the marriage to the deceased lasted at least ten years, at age 60 or older.
  • If you are disabled and your marriage to the deceased lasted at least ten years, at age 50 or older.
  • At any age if they take care of a child of the deceased who is younger than age 16 or disabled.

3) Unmarried children :
Children who are not married may be eligible for benefits if:
  • Under the age of 18 (or up to age 19 if they are attending elementary or secondary school full time).
  • Everyone who is disabled and has been since they were younger than 22.
Under certain circumstances, benefits also can be paid to grandchildren, stepchildren, adopted children or step-grandchildren.

4) Dependent Parents :
Benefits are available to parents who received at least one-half of their child's support and are 62 years of age or older. There are certain exceptions to the rule that your parent cannot have married after you passed away.

If your stepparent or adoptive parent adopted you before the age of 16, they may also be eligible to receive benefits in addition to your biological parent.

5) One-time lump sum death payment :
Only a spouse or child who satisfies specific qualifications will be given a one-time payment of $255. Within two years of the date of death, survivors must submit an application for this payment.

To begin with, in order for your loved ones to qualify for benefits, you must first work the required number of years and accrue the necessary number of "credits" each year, just as you must do in order to qualify yourself. You are granted one credit for each $1,470 you make in 2021, up to a maximum of $5,880, for a total of four credits per year. By 2022, it will increase to $6,040 for every $1,510 you make.

Social Security Survivor Benefits Basics

Depending on whether you or your spouse had already begun receiving payments, you must decide whether and when to begin receiving benefits after the death of your spouse. Here are the fundamental principles involved.

1) Couples Who Have Not Yet Filled for Benefits :
Waiting longer will enable both of you to receive a bigger benefit if you haven't yet begun receiving benefits. This also applies to the survivor benefit once one of you dies.

The spouse with the higher income should delay starting their benefits until they are 70 years old in order to get the most out of the survivor benefit. As a result, the monthly payment increases. When the first spouse passes away, the remaining spouse will receive the bigger sum.

2) Couples Who Made Benefit Claims :
The bigger benefit amount, if you and your husband had both begun claiming, would have been your monthly payment. The smaller of the two payments will be discontinued.

You may choose when to file for the survivor benefit if your deceased spouse (or ex-spouse) had already begun receiving payments but you had not. Depending on when you start receiving benefits, you may get more or less money from Social Security throughout the course of your lifetime.

Consult a financial advisor if you're unaware of how to maximize your survivor payment. They will be able to recommend a starting date and method for claiming that income.

You cannot receive their survivor benefit if you remarried soon after your ex-spouse passed away before you became 60 (or 50 if you were incapacitated).

How to Calculate Social Security Survivor Benefits ?

Depending on your age at death, you may require a specific number of credits to qualify your family for survivor benefits. The number of credits you require decreases with age, but you'll never need more than 40. For the majority of people, it takes at least 10 years of employment and Social Security taxes to accumulate the sufficient amount.

If you have earned six credits or more within the three calendar years before to your death, which takes around 1.5 years, payments may be granted to your spouse if you pass away leaving them with dependent children.

The amount of survivor benefits that your family would receive is determined by your average lifetime earnings, just like with ordinary retirement benefits. Up to a specific maximum, the benefit increased with your income.

Benefit amounts are based on what the deceased would have gotten if they were still alive at full retirement age. However, any benefits awarded to your surviving family members will be calculated based on your lower payment if you started receiving benefits before reaching your full or "normal" retirement age. The age at which your spouse or dependents start receiving benefits will also have an impact on how much they will get.

In addition to receiving a smaller benefit yourself, your surviving spouse will also receive one if you start collecting Social Security payments before reaching the standard retirement age.

How Much is Social Security Survivor Benefits ?

There are two kinds of survivor’s benefits offered by Social Security Administration, one-time lump-sum payment and an ongoing monthly survivor benefit.
Benefits can also differ depending on the survivor's relationship to the deceased and their starting age.

Your average lifetime income determines how much benefits you and your family might be eligible for. Their benefits would be greater the more money you made. The benefits for your surviving spouse may be impacted if you are already receiving reduced benefits at the time of your death.

Examples of monthly benefit payments are as follows:
  • 100% of your benefit amount, widow or widower, full retirement age or older.
  • Widow or widower, age 60 to full retirement age—71½ to 99% of your basic amount.
  • Disabled widow or widower, age 50 through 59—71½%.
  • Widow or widower, any age, caring for a child under age 16—75%.
  • A child under age 18 (19 if still in elementary or secondary school) or has a disability—75%.
  • Your dependent parents who are 62 years of age or older:
  1. One surviving parent—82½%.
  2. Two surviving parents—75% to each parent.
For a surviving divorced spouse, the percentages would be the same as previously.

A Special Lump-Sum Death Payment

If they satisfy specific criteria, a surviving spouse or child may be eligible for a special lump-sum death payment of $255.

The surviving spouse who was a part of the worker's household at the time of their death typically receives the lump sum payment. Even if they were not physically together at the time of the worker's death, the surviving spouse is still eligible to get the lump sum:
  • Were already registered as getting benefits.
  • Become qualified to receive benefits after the worker's death.
If the worker's kid (or children) fulfills one of the following criteria during the month of the worker's death, the lump payment may be paid to the child (or children) if there is no eligible surviving spouse.
  • Was already receiving benefits on the worker's record.
  • Become qualified to receive benefits after the worker's passing.
Within two years of the date of death, the eligible surviving spouse or child must submit an application for this payment if they are not already receiving benefits.

Maximum Family Amount

Family members are only permitted to get a certain amount each month. Although the cap fluctuates, it often corresponds to 150% to 180% of the basic benefit rate.

If the total benefits due to family members exceeds this amount, the payments will be proportionately decreased. (Benefits based on age or disability paid to a surviving divorced spouse are not included in this maximum.)

For an estimate of the benefits your family could get in the event that you passed away right this second, request your Social Security Statement through your personal My Social Security account.

Only Get One Payment

Either you or your spouse may receive Social Security benefits, but not both. When you and your spouse start receiving Social Security benefits, you will continue to receive the higher payment in the event of your spouse's death.

You can choose to begin receiving a survivor benefit immediately if your spouse had already started receiving benefits but you had not. If your benefit increases once you turn 70, you can then change.

You will get 75% of the dead worker's benefit if you are taking care of a child under the age of 16. At any age, this is accurate.

Survivor Benefits for Ex-Spouses

When your ex dies, you are eligible to get benefits if you were married to them for at least 10 years and did not remarry before turning 60. Even if they remarried before passing away, you are still eligible to get this benefit.

The 10-year rule does not apply if you are raising your ex-child, spouse's provided the child is under the age of 16. In general, the benefit is equivalent to what a non-divorced spouse would receive.

Getting the Full Benefit

You can postpone applying for benefits until your survivor FRA (age 66 or 67) or older if neither of you had begun claiming Social Security yet. In this situation, you will be given 100% of the basic benefit amount of your deceased spouse.

If they were able to get $1,650 per month at their FRA, you would also receive that amount by delaying your claim until you reached full retirement age.

The impact of postponed retirement credits is included in survivors' benefits. You can receive a higher survivor benefit if your spouse submitted their Social Security claim after reaching age 66 or 67 and before beginning to receive benefits.

You would receive the amount that would have been paid to them at that later age when you first begin claiming your survivor benefit. This will be more than if they had begun earlier.

What Else Affects Survivor Benefits ?

The amount that survivors may make while receiving benefits is subject to restrictions.

Additional factors may have an impact on benefits for a widow, widower, or surviving divorced spouse, including :

1) If they get remarried :
You cannot get benefits as a surviving spouse while you are married if your widow, widower, or surviving divorced spouse marries again before turning 60 (or 50 if they are disabled).
After turning 60 (or 50 if they have a disability), your widow, widower, or surviving divorced spouse will still be eligible for benefits on your Social Security record.
However, they could desire to file for spouse's benefits on their record if their spouse at the time is a Social Security recipient. A combination of benefits will be paid to them if the amount is greater than the widow or widower benefit shown on your record.

2) Whether they qualify for retirement benefits based only on their own record :
They can move to their own retirement benefit as early as age 62 if they are receiving benefits on your record as a widow, widower, or surviving divorced spouse. This is based on the supposition that they are qualified for retirement benefits and that their retirement rate is higher than their rate as a surviving divorced spouse, widow, or widower.
A widow or widower may frequently start off getting a benefit at a lesser rate and then move to a higher rate later on.

3) Whether they will also earn a pension for work that is not SSA-covered :
Their Social Security benefits as a survivor may be impacted if your widow, widower, or surviving divorced spouse will also get a pension based on work not covered by SSA, such as government or international work.
The full retirement age for survivors benefits could not coincide with the full retirement age for retirement benefits.

Social Security Survivor Benefits Calculator

Making a my Social Security account online is the ideal way to get started with your future preparation. You may check your wages, access your Social Security Statement, and much more with my Social Security, all from the convenience of your home or workplace.

SSA offers a number of calculators to help you meet your current needs or make plans for the future.

These programs can be accurate but need access to the database that has your official earnings record. The quickest method to accomplish that is by opening a my Social Security account or login in to one you already have. The alternative is to respond to a series of inquiries to establish your identity.

What Documents Need to Apply for Social Security Survivor Benefits ?

You will require a variety of documentation when you apply for Social Security survivor benefits.
  • Proof of death, either from a funeral home or death certificate.
  • Your Social Security number, as well as that of your deceased spouse.
  • Birth certificate.
  • If you are a widow or widower, your marriage certificate.
  • Social Security numbers and birth certificates of any dependent children.
  • Your bank's name and account number are required in order to deposit your benefits into your account.
  • Your deceased spouse's W-2 forms or federal self-employment tax return for the most recent year.
Do not postpone submitting your application for Social Security benefits if you lack all the required paperwork. Frequently, your local Social Security office can free of charge check your information online by contacting your state's Bureau of Vital Statistics. Even if the SSA is unable to validate your information online, they can still assist you in obtaining the data you require.

Mailing Your Documents :

The Social Security number must be included on every correspondence with the SSA in order for them to match the documents to the appropriate application. Keep all writing off of the original documents. Please include the Social Security number in the sending envelope with the documents on a separate piece of paper.

How to Apply for Social Security Survivor Benefits ?

It is not possible to apply for survivor benefits online because every person's situation is unique. But you can also make an appointment and apply in person at your local Social Security office. On the Social Security Administration website, you may always find the most recent criteria and contact details.

When someone passes away, you must promptly notify SSA. However, internet applications for survivors benefits or death reports are not accepted. The funeral home will often notify SSA of the person's death. If you want the funeral home to file the report, you must provide them with the deceased person's Social Security number.

Benefits for survivors cannot be applied for online. Use one of the following procedures to register a death or apply for survivors benefits:
  • Call toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778). (You can talk to a Social Security representative Monday through Friday from 8:00 am to 7:00 pm.)
  • Visit or call your local Social Security office.
Using the Social Security Office Locator, look under Social Security Office Information to find the phone number for your local office. Your local office can be reached at the toll-free "Office" number.

If you are not getting benefits :

If you aren't receiving benefits, you should file right away for survivors benefits because sometimes payments aren't made backwards.

If you are getting benefits :

If you are receiving benefits based on the records of your parents or spouse:
  • In most cases, you won't need to submit a claim for survivors benefits.
  • Following receipt of the death report, the Social Security Administration will convert any monthly benefits you receive into survivors payments.
  • The Special Lump-Sum Death Payment might be automatically paid by SSA.
If you are receiving disability or retirement benefits under your own record :
  • You must submit an application for survivors benefits.
  • If you qualify for a greater benefit as a widow or widower, SSA will investigate.

Social Security Survivor Benefits Contact

Call the toll-free number 1-800-772-1213 if you need assistance or have questions, or visit your local Social Security office. Call 1-800-325-0778 if you have hearing loss or are deaf. and 5:30 p.m. from Monday to Friday.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Who is Entitled to Social Security Death Benefits?
Surviving spouses and dependents of workers who paid into the Social Security system and worked long enough to earn benefits are eligible for Social Security death payments.

How many years must you be Married in order to qualify for Social Security Survivor Benefits?
To be qualified for their spouse's Social Security death benefits, a surviving spouse must have been wed for at least a year. The one-year restriction is suspended, nevertheless, if the surviving spouse is also the parent of the deceased spouse's kid. If a divorced spouse was married to their ex-spouse for at least ten years, they might be qualified for benefits.

How Much of Social Security Benefits Do Widows and Widowers Get?
At full retirement age, the surviving spouse is entitled to 100% of the benefits. Between the ages of 60 and full retirement age, the surviving spouse may be eligible for reduced payments, which are typically between 71.5 and 99%. When they are 50, a disabled surviving spouse can start getting 71.5% of the payments. 75% of the benefits are given to surviving spouses with children under the age of 16.

How long are Social Security Survivor Benefits Receive ?
The surviving spouse is entitled to receive Social Security survivor payments for the rest of their lives. Divorced spouses who qualify for benefits must meet certain requirements. Benefits for surviving children expire at age 18 or, if they are still enrolled in elementary or secondary school, at age 19 and two months. Children of disabled parents who survive receive benefits for the rest of their lives.

Common-law partners are eligible for Social Security survivor benefits?
You are entitled for survivor benefits if you and your late spouse resided in a state that accepts common-law marriages or if the marriage began there and you can present the necessary papers. Before submitting a "Statement of Marital Relationship" and supplying further supporting papers to begin receiving survivor benefits, make sure your state accepts common-law marriages.

Do they pay death benefits?
If the surviving spouse shared a residence with the dead, a one-time lump-sum death payment of $255 may be made to them. They were collecting certain Social Security payments on the deceased's record even if they were living separately. The payment is provided to a kid who was listed as being entitled for benefits on the deceased's record in the month of death if there is no surviving spouse.

What happens if the deceased received monthly benefits?
You must repay the payment received for the month of death and any subsequent months if the deceased was receiving Social Security benefits.

You must repay the benefits provided in August, for instance, if the individual passed away in July. The deceased's method of benefit receipt will determine how the benefits are returned:
  • Contact the bank or other financial institution if you have questions about direct deposit funds. Ask for the return of any money we receive for the month of the death or later.
  • Check payments for benefits must be sent back to us right away. Any cheques you receive for the month of the person's death or later should not be cashed.

Who is the beneficiary?
Family members that may be qualified for monthly benefits include:
  • 60 or older widows or widowers (age 50 or older if they have a disability).
  • A divorced spouse who has survived, in specific situations.
  • A widow or widower, regardless of age, who is taking care of a kid under 16 or with a disability while also receiving child benefits.
  • One of the following who is the deceased's unmarried child:
  1. Under the age of 18 (or up to age 19 if they are a full-time student in an elementary or secondary school).
  2. 18 years of age or older with a disability that started before 22 years of age.

Are other family members qualified?
Depending on the situation, the following relatives may qualify:
  • A child who is adopted, a stepchild, a grandchild, or a step-grandchild.
  • Parents who depended on the dead for at least half of their support and are 62 years of age or older.
Survivors benefits may be available to eligible family members for the month in which the beneficiary passed away.

How Much Can I Get ?
First, if the surviving spouse shared a residence with the deceased spouse, Social Security will pay a death benefit of $255. This payment is paid just once.

Fundamentally, the monthly payment is based on the dead spouse's lifetime wages. Additionally, it is based on the Social Security benefits they received or would have received. The higher your spouse's Social Security benefit will be, the more money they made throughout their lifetime.

The amount you are eligible for varies depending on the relationship. However, being aware of how these payments can appear will enable you to calculate the potential amount of your claim.

What Reduces Benefits?
You will receive between 71.5% and 99% of your deceased spouse's basic payment amount if you file between the ages of 60 and your survivor FRA. Each month you get nearer to your FRA, the sum increases.

The amount of a survivor benefit that you receive if you are working and have not yet attained FRA may decrease. If your income is greater than the earnings limit, this would occur.