Financial Advice

Social Security Survivor Benefits

Social Security Survivor Benefits

No one likes to think about what life will be like for those you love if you are no longer around. However, it is an important part of planning for the financial future of your family to consider all avenues of income available to them, including Social Security survivor benefits if something were to happen. These funds can help your surviving spouse, your children, and, in some cases, your parents after your death.

Eligibility and Qualification

There are different Social Security benefit types and different qualifications for those benefits. For instance, the lump sum Social Security death benefit is a one-time payment of $255 available to the specified survivor if you had Social Security withholdings for at least six of the most recent 13 quarters before your death.

This payment typically goes to the surviving spouse. If there is no surviving spouse, this amount will be paid to a dependent child aged 18 or younger – barring certain exceptions. There is no paperwork required for a widow or widower to receive this benefit. However, if payment is to a dependent child, an application must be filed within two years of your death.

The eligibility requirements to receive ongoing monthly Social Security death benefits are a little different. Surviving spouses, dependents, and minor children who qualify can receive payments.

Spousal Benefits

Spousal benefits are available to current spouses who have been married for at least nine months at the time of death and who are age 60 or over. In some cases, former spouses can qualify for these benefits if they had been married for at least ten years, are 60 or older, and if they did not remarry before the age of 60.

If you work, qualify for your retirement benefits, or remarry before you turn 60, you may not be eligible to receive this benefit or may experience reduced benefits from ongoing monthly Social Security survivor spousal benefits.

Benefits for Dependents and People Caring for Minor Children

Your surviving children under the age of 18 and those under the age of 19 who are still in school may be eligible to receive monthly survivor benefits from your Social Security. Additionally, if your parents are over the age of 62 and depend on you for support at the time of your death, they may be eligible to receive monthly benefits.

Finally, the mother or father of a dependent child under the age of 16 or who was disabled before the age of 22 may also be eligible for monthly benefits. That is different from surviving spouse benefits in that your spouse will not be required to wait until the age of 60 to receive them.

In all cases, the Social Security Administration recommends that you notify them as quickly as possible that a death has occurred to arrange benefits.

Types of Benefits

There are essentially two types of Social Security death benefits.

  1. Lump Sum Social Security Death Benefits
  2. Ongoing Monthly Social Security Death Benefits

Understanding both benefits can help your survivors financially plan for the future and can provide you with some peace of mind about their future without you.

Benefit Expectations

With Social Security death benefits, the more you have paid into Social Security over your lifetime, the higher your survivors’ benefits will be. Aside from that, there are mitigating factors that will affect monthly payment amounts that you should consider when setting budget expectations. These include things like the age of the surviving spouse, whether or not your spouse has remarried, and their Social Security retirement or pension benefits.

If you are at full retirement age, you may be eligible for up to 100 percent of your benefits while surviving spouses between the ages of 60 and full retirement age may only qualify for 71.5 to 99 percent of the available benefits amount.

Surviving spouses caring for children under the age of 16 may receive up to 75 percent of the available benefits amount, as may dependent children under the age of 18. If your surviving parents were dependent on you, they might be eligible to receive up to 82.5 percent for one parent or up to 75 percent for each parent (if both were dependent).

Applying for Benefits

Your family may call 1-800-772-1213 between the hours of 7:00 am and 7:00 pm Monday through Friday to report your death and to apply for Social Security survivor benefits. They can also visit the local Social Security office to apply in person.

Planning for your financial future is important. It is equally important to invest a little time in understanding what Social Security survivor benefits have to offer your family and to decide what steps you prefer to take to supplement that income for them. Working with a financial planner can help.

For more information on Social Security survivor benefits, visit

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