Social Security Survivors Benefits

Social Security Benefits

Social Security survivors benefits help ease the financial burden that follows a worker’s death. Some of the deceased’s family members may be able to receive Social Security benefits if the deceased person worked long enough under Social Security to qualify for benefits. The deceased worker must have credit for work covered by Social Security, ranging from 1 ½ to 10 years depending on his or her age at death.

Those who may be eligible to receive monthly benefits are:

  • A widow or widower age 60 or older (age 50 or older if disabled).
  • A widow or widower at any age who is caring for the deceased’s child under age 16 or disabled
  • An unmarried child of the deceased who is younger than 18 (or up to age 19 if he or she is a full-time student in an elementary or secondary school) or age 18 or older with a disability that began before age 22 .
  • A stepchild, grandchild, step grandchild or adopted child under certain circumstances. Parents, age 62 or older, who were dependent on the deceased for at least half of their support.
  • A surviving divorced spouse, under certain circumstances.

If the deceased was receiving Social Security benefits, you must return the benefit received for the month of death or any later months. For example, if the person dies in March, you must return the benefit paid in April. If benefits were paid by direct deposit, contact the bank or other financial institution. Request that any funds received for the month of death or later be returned to Social Security. If the benefits were paid by check, do not cash any checks received for the month in which the person dies or later. Return the checks to Social Security as soon as possible. Contact the Social Security Office if you have any questions about returning checks.

A Special One-Time Payment

In addition to the monthly benefits for family members, a one-time payment of $255 can be paid to a spouse who was living with the worker at the time of death, or if living apart, was receiving certain Social Security benefits on the deceased’s record. If there is no surviving spouse, the payment is made to a child who is eligible for benefits on the deceased’s record in the month of death. This payment can not be made if there is no eligible spouse or child.

Applying for Benefits

You must apply in order to receive benefits. You may apply at any Social Security office, or you may apply by telephone. You may call Social Security toll-free at 1-800-772-1213. To speak with a representative, call between the hours of 7 A.M. and 7 P.M. on regular business days.

You may contact the Social Security Office to find out what benefits are available for your individual circumstances.

Visit for the local Social Security office nearest you.