Social Security Survivors Benefits
In addition to disability and retirment benefits, widows, widowers, children and dependent parents may all be eligible for survivors benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA). Click on the links below for more information regarding survivors benefits.
The requirements to receive survivor benefits depend on your relationship to the eligible worker.
- Full benefits at retirement age (65 if born 1945-1956 and 67 if born after 1962).
- Reduced benefits at 50 if disabled
- Benefits at any age if he or she is caring for your child who is receiving Social Security benefits and is under 16 or disabled
If a widow or widower remarries before age 60, he or she generally cannot receive survivor benefits based on the former spouse’s record.
May receive benefits if they are:
- Under 18 (or 19 and attending elementary or secondary school full time)
If your child was disabled before turning 22 and remain disabled, they may receive survivor benefits at any time.
May receive benefits if they:
- Are over 62 years of age
- Received at least half of their support from the eligible worker
Yes. Under certain circumstances, divorced spouses may receive survivor benefits if the divorced spouse meets certain requirements.
- The marriage must have lasted at least 10 years
- The divorced spouse is at least 60 (or at least 50 and disabled)
- These rules do not apply if the divorced spouse is caring for the eligible worker’s child who is 16 or under or disabled and the child is the divorced spouse’s natural or adopted child.
Work will not affect your benefits if you are at full retirement age. If you are not yet at full retirement age, your benefits may be reduced if your earnings exceed earnings limits. The limits can be found here.
The benefit amount is based on the earnings of the person who died. The SSA uses the deceased worker’s basic benefit amount and calculates what percentage survivors are entitled to receive. The percentage depends on the survivors’ ages and relationship to the worker. If the person who died was receiving reduced benefits, your survivor’s benefit is based on that amount. Here are the most typical situations:
- A widow or widower, at full retirement age or older, generally receives 100 percent of the worker’s basic benefit amount;
- A widow or widower, age 60 or older, but under full retirement age, receives about 71-99 percent of the worker’s basic benefit amount; or
- A widow or widower, any age, with a child younger than age 16, receives 75 percent of the worker’s benefit amount.
- Children receive 75 percent of the worker’s benefit amount.
For more information, visit the SSA website regarding Survivors Benefits.
Yes but there is a maximum amount of survivors benefits that can be distributed from any one worker's benefits. The amount of benefits that can be distributed varies but is generally capped at 150-180% of the deceased worker's benefit amount. Whether or not you are entitled to benefits also depends on the number of other beneficiaries entitled to benefits from the deceased worker and their relationship to the deceased. These rules can be complicated. Please see contact the SSA for more information.
You have a right to appeal a decision you disagree with. You have 60 days from the date of the letter to send a written request for an appeal. The appeals process is generally the same as the process for disability benefits. For more information, see our page regarding Social Security Disability Benefits. You have a right to appoint a representative to help you with the appeals process.
NOTE: The information contained on this page is for general background information only. If you have a legal question, it is best to consult with an attorney.