In this article, you will learn “Do you qualify for Social Security Survivor Benefits“?
What are Social Security Survivor Benefits?
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.
This article gives you an overview of Social Security survivors benefits paid to the spouses and children of workers who die. It is not intended to answer all the questions you may have. For more information about Social Security’s survivor’s benefits, go to SocialSecurity.gov or call the toll-free number 1 (800) 772-1213
When you die, certain members of your family may be eligible for survivor benefits. These include widows, widowers (and divorced widows and widowers), children, and dependent parents.
How do you earn survivors benefits?
As you work and pay Social Security taxes, you earn credits toward your Social Security benefits. The number of years you need to work for your family to be eligible for Social Security survivor benefits depends on your age when you die. The younger you are, the fewer years you need to have worked. But no one needs more than 10 years of work or 40 credits to be eligible for any Social Security benefit.
The deceased has to have been “fully insured” at the time of death, which requires 40 Social Security work credits or 10 years of work. (This is reduced for young workers.)
Social Security cannot pay benefits to you if you don’t have enough credits. They use the number of credits you’ve earned to determine your eligibility for retirement or disability benefits, as well as your family’s eligibility for survivor benefits when you die.
Under a special rule, Social Security can pay benefits to your children and your spouse caring for your children, even if your record doesn’t have the number of credits needed. They can get benefits if you have credits for one and one-half year’s work (6 credits)in the three years before your death.
If you are already receiving retirement or disability benefits at the time of your death, they will pay your survivors based on that entitlement.
How much can you receive?
The benefit amount is based on the earnings of the person who died. The more the worker paid into Social Security, the greater your benefits will be.
Social Security uses the deceased worker’s basic benefit amount to calculate the percentage survivors can get. The percentage depends on the survivor’s age and relationship to the worker
If the worker who died was getting reduced benefits, it will be based on your survivor’s benefit on that amount. In most claims for benefits:
- A widow or widower, at full retirement age or older, generally gets 100 percent of the worker’s basic benefit amount.
- A widow or widower, age 60 or older, but under full retirement age, gets about 71-99 percent of the worker’s basic benefit amount.
- A widow or widower, any age, with a child younger than age 16, gets 75 percent of the worker’s benefit amount.
- A child gets 75 percent of the worker’s benefit amount.
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. And the full retirement age will gradually increase 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. For more information on widows, widowers, and other survivors, visit www.socialsecurity.gov/survivorplan.
- Your widow or widower can get benefits at any age if they take care of your child younger than age 16 or disabled, who’s 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 3 dependents, you must have provided at least half of their support.)
What if you work and you get Survivor Benefits?
If you work while getting Social Security survivors benefits and are younger than full retirement age, social security will reduce your benefits if your earnings exceed certain limits. The full retirement age for survivors is 66 for people born in 1945-1956. The full retirement age will gradually increase to age 67 for people born in 1962 or later.
In 2019 $1 dollar in survivor benefits is withheld for every $2 you earn above $17,640 if you’re under full retirement age. The year you reach full retirement age, $1 is deducted for every $3 you earn above $46,920. These numbers may change based on when you are reading this article.
What if you remarry?
Usually, you can’t get widow’s or widower’s benefits if you remarry before age 60 (or age 50 if you’re disabled). But remarriage after age 60 (or age 50 if you’re disabled) won’t prevent you from getting benefit payments based on your former spouse’s work. And at age 62 or older, you can get benefits on your new spouse’s work, if those benefits would be higher.
How can you apply for benefits?
Apply for survivors benefits promptly because, for some claims, we’ll pay benefits from the time you apply and not from the time the worker died.
You can apply by telephone or at any Social Security office. We’ll need certain information, but don’t delay applying if you don’t have everything. We’ll help you get what you need. We need either original documents or copies certified by the agency that issued them.
The information we need includes:
- Proof of death — either from a funeral home or death certificate.
- Your Social Security number, and the deceased worker’s SSN.
- Your birth certificate.
- Your marriage certificate, if you’re a widow or widower.
- Your divorce papers, if you’re 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.
What If you’re already getting Social Security benefits.
If you’re getting benefits as a wife or husband based on your spouse’s work, social security will change your payments to survivors benefits when you report the death. If they need more information, they will contact you.
If you’re getting benefits based on your own work history, call or visit social security. They will check to see if you can get more money as a widow or widower. If so, you’ll get a combination of benefits that equals the higher amount. You must complete an application to switch to survivors benefits. They will also need to see your spouse’s death certificate as proof.