Survivor benefits are monies paid by the U.S. Social Security Administration to individuals who have suffered the death of a family member. Those eligible to receive survivor benefits include widowers, widows, divorced widowers and widows, dependent parents and children under 19 years of age.
Amount of survivor benefits paid to eligible recipients is based on how many years the deceased worked prior to their death. These benefits are earned by anyone who works and pays Social Security taxes out of a paycheck. According to Social Security’s survivor benefits guidelines, “the number of years you must work for family members to be eligible to receive survivor benefits depends on your age”. For example, if someone worked 18 months out of the three years prior to their death, Social Security will pay benefits to the deceased’s children and spouse who continues to care for the deceased’s children.
Survivor Benefits Eligibility
- Widowers and widows may be eligible for survivor benefits at full retirement age. Currently, Social Security considers 66 as full retirement age for those born between 1945 and 1956, with a gradual increase to 67 for people born after 1962.
- Widowers and widows may receive reduced benefits at age 60. If a widow or widower is disabled, they may start receiving benefits at age 50.
- Surviving spouses can receive survivor benefits at any age if that spouse is still taking care of the deceased’s child, as long as the child is under 16 years old, disabled and receiving Social Security benefits,
- Unmarried children of a deceased father or mother may be eligible for survivor benefits if they are 18 years old or younger. They can also receive the benefits until they are 19 years old if they are attending secondary school full time.
- Children of any age who were permanently disabled prior to turning 22 years old are eligible to receive survivor benefits from deceased parents who worked and paid Social Security taxes. Benefits may also be payable to stepchildren, grandchildren, step-grandchildren and even adopted children under circumstances deemed “special” by the Social Security Administration.
Survivor Benefits for Dependent Parents
If a son or daughter who has provided at least 50 percent of a parent’s support passes away, the dependent parent or parents may be eligible to receive survivor benefits until they are 62 and able to draw partial Social Security benefits.
Survivor Benefits for Divorced Spouses
If you were married for at least 10 years to a divorced spouse who passed away, you may be able to receive survivor benefits if you are 60 years of age or older. If you are between 50 and 59 years of age, disabled and can prove you have a deceased divorced spouse, you may also be eligible to receive these benefits before age 60. Former surviving spouses of deceased divorced spouses who are still caring for the deceased’s child or children do not need to meet Social Security’s age requirements to receive the benefits for divorced spouses.
Pay to Eligible Family Members
How much you receive depends on the average lifetime earnings of the deceased. The more they earned and paid into Social Security, the more an eligible family member will receive from survivor benefits payments. Be aware that there are caps on how much Social Security pays out for these types of benefits.
Applying for Social Security Survivor Benefits
If you are not currently receiving Social Security benefits (retirement, disability or SSI), you may apply for survivor benefits upon meeting he aforementioned criteria. Make sure you apply for them as soon as possible. In some cases, Social Security only pays benefits from the date the application was received, not the date the worker passed away. Waiting several months until applying for survivor benefits could cost you a significant amount of money that is rightfully yours.
The Social Security Administration will take applications for survivor benefits over the phone or in person. Documents and information required to complete an application include:
- Death certificate
- Social security numbers of the deceased and person receiving the benefits
- Birth certificate of the benefit recipient
- Marriage certificate if the recipient is a widower or widow
- Divorce papers if the recipient was divorced from the deceased
- Bank information so your benefits may be deposited directly into the recipient’s account
Because the rules regulating these benefits are so rigorous and applications are routinely denied, we strongly urge you to call Paul Giannetti Attorney at Law at 866-868-2960 to schedule a free consultation regarding your eligibility for survivor benefits compensation. If you think you have been wrongly denied your right to these benefits, we can also help you reapply and determine whether your case requires further action against Social Security.