Social Security Survivor BenefitsBy Anne Zavaglia
Posted on March 22nd, 2019
Social Security may pay benefits to eligible family members when a person dies, helping to make their financial life easier About 10% of the approximately 62 million Social Security beneficiaries in December 2017 were receiving survivor benefits.1
Who is eligible for benefits?
A dependent child may be able to receive survivor benefits based on the earnings record of the decedent if he or she is unmarried and under age 18 (19 if still in high school) or over age 18 if disabled before age 22.
Both a current and former spouse may be able to receive survivor benefits based on earnings records if certain conditions are met. Regardless of age, both may be able to receive a benefit if they’re unmarried and caring for a child who is under age 16, or disabled before age 22, and entitled to receive benefits on the decedent’s record. At age 60 or older (50 or older if disabled), both may be able to receive a survivor benefit even if not caring for a child (a length of marriage requirement applies).
A parent may be able to receive survivor benefits based on the Social Security earnings record. To be eligible, the parent must be age 62 or older and receiving at least half of his or her financial support from the decendent at the time of death. In addition, the parent cannot be entitled to his or her own higher Social Security benefit and must not have married after a child’s death.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) may pay a one-time, $255 lump-sum death benefit to an eligible surviving spouse. If there is no surviving spouse, the payment may be made to an eligible dependent child. The death benefit has never increased since it was capped at its current amount in a 1954 amendment to the Social Security Act.2
This is just an overview. For more information on survivor benefits and eligibility rules, visit the SSA website, ssa.gov.
1Fast Facts & Figures About Social Security, 2018
2 Research Notes & Special Studies by the Historian’s Office, Social Security Administration