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Issues Involved When Receiving Survivor Benefits


Family members of deceased workers are eligible to receive survivor benefits under social security rules. The beneficiary’s widow or widower, dependent children and dependent parents are all entitled to these monthly benefits.

A worker’s widow or widower may receive this benefit in full at age 65 if born before January 1940. However, a surviving spouse may also receive this benefit as early as age 60 but at a reduced rate or amount. If a widow or widower is disabled, he can begin receiving benefits at age 50.

A surviving spouse who takes care of the decedent’s child who is eligible to a child’s benefit and also disabled, may receive benefits at any age.

The deceased worker’s unmarried children, who are under age 18, are also entitled to receive benefits. If they get disabled before age 22 and remain under this permanent condition, they can get benefits at any age. In some instances, even stepchildren, grandchildren, or adopted children can receive the same benefits.

A worker’s dependent parents can receive benefits if they are age 62 or older, provided the worker contributes at least half the share of their support.

The amount of social security survivor benefits that relatives may receive often depends on the credits earned by the worker and the age when he dies. A worker’s average lifetime earnings will determine how much benefit his family can receive during his death. That means the more a worker has earned, the more the benefits will be.

However, under a special rule, a worker has to work only for one and one-half years in the three years before his death to have his relatives and dependents eligible for the said benefits.

The limit to the amount of survivor benefits a family may receive generally differs in each situation. But typically, it is between 150 and 180 percent of the deceased’s benefit amount.

When calculating the percentage of this benefit, the Social Security Administration uses the deceased worker’s basic benefit amount. The percentage depends on the survivors’ ages and relationship to the worker.

By percentage, here is a list of the amount each beneficiary may receive:

  • A widow or widower, at full retirement age or older, generally gets 100 percent of the worker’s basic benefit amount

  • But under full retirement age, A widow or widower, age 60 or older, will receive about 71-99 percent of the worker’s basic benefit amount

  • A widow or widower, at any age, with a child under age 16, receives 75 percent of the worker’s benefit amount

  • Children receive 75 percent of the worker’s benefit amount.

When applying for these benefits, the following documents are required:

  • Proof of death—either from a funeral home or death certificate

  • Your Social Security number, as well as the deceased worker’s

  • Your birth certificate

  • Your marriage certificate, if you are a widow or widower

  • Your divorce papers, if you are applying as a divorced widow or widower

  • Dependent children’s Social Security numbers, if available, and birth certificates

  • Deceased worker’s W-2 forms or federal self-employment tax return for the most recent year

  • The name of your bank and your account number so your benefits can be deposited directly into your account.

One should file his social security survivor benefits immediately in order to receive it in the soonest time possible. In some cases, payments made for this benefit are calculated from the time one has filed his application and not from the time the worker or beneficiary died.


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