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Social Security Benefits


Definition of Survivor's Benefits

When a person who has worked and paid Social Security taxes dies, certain members of the family may be eligible for survivor benefits. Up to ten years of work is needed to be eligible for benefits, depending on the person’s age at the time of death. Survivors of very young workers may be eligible if the deceased worker was employed for 1½ years during the three years before his or her death.

If the deceased was receiving Social Security Benefits, you must return the benefit for the month of death or any later months. For example, if the person dies in July, you must return the benefit paid in August. 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. However, eligible family members may be able to receive death benefits for the month in which the beneficiary died.


Who May Receive Monthly Benefits?

Social Security survivors benefits can be paid to:

  • A widow or widower age 60 or older (age 50 if disabled), or at any age if caring for an entitled child who is under age 16 or disabled.
  • A divorced widow or widower age 60 or older (age 50 if disabled) if the marriage lasted 10 years, or if caring for an entitled child who is under age 16 or disabled.
  • Unmarried children up to age 18 (age 19 if they are attending high school full time). Under certain circumstances, benefits can be paid to stepchildren, grandchildren or adopted children.
  • Children who were disabled before reaching age 22 and remain disabled.
  • Dependent parent or parents age 62 or older

Lump Sum Death Payment

A one-time payment of $255 is paid in addition to the monthly cash benefits described above. The lump-sum death payment (LSDP) is paid in the following priority order:

  • A surviving spouse who lived in the same household as the deceased person at the time of death.
  • A surviving spouse eligible for or entitled to benefits for the month of death.
  • A child or children eligible for or entitled to benefits for the month of death.

How to Apply

You must apply in order to receive benefits. You may apply at any Social Security Office, or if you wish, you may apply by telephone. Just dial the toll-free number 1.800.772.1213 and the operator will schedule an appointment for you or arrange for the local Social Security Office to take your claim by telephone. You may also visit Social Security online.

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