Death Benefit

The Social Security Administration pays a $255 death benefit upon the death of a person who has worked long enough to qualify for Social Security benefits, even if the deceased was not receiving benefits at the time of death. SSA will only pay the benefit to an eligible spouse or child. To file call 1.800.772.1213 and ask for an appointment with your local office. For more information, visit

Survivor Benefit

Members of a deceased worker’s family may be eligible for survivors benefits based on his or her work record and earned Social Security credits. The required number of earnings credits usually is based on the worker’s age at death. In general, younger workers need fewer earnings credits than older workers. No worker needs more than 40 earnings credits (10 years of work) to be fully insured for any Social Security benefit.

Social Security survivors benefits can be paid to:

  • A widow/widower: at full retirement age, or reduced benefits as early as age 60. [A widow/widower cannot receive benefits if they remarry before the age of 60 (50 if disabled) Benefits start up again if the second marriage ends through death or divorce. Remarriage after age 60 (50 if disabled) does not effect benefits.]
  • A disabled widow/widower: at age 50 in most cases (check with SSA)
  • A widow/widower: at any age if caring for deceased’s child under age 16 or disabled child.
  • Unmarried children : up to age 19 if attending elementary school or high school full time; to age 18 if not attending school. Under certain circumstances, stepchildren, grandchildren, adopted children receive benefits.
  • Disabled children: any age if disabled prior to age 22.
  • Dependent parents: 62 or older.
  • A former spouse : as a widow/widower if the marriage lasted 10 years or more. Benefits paid to a surviving divorced spouse over 60 or older do not affect benefits paid to other survivors.

The amount of the survivors benefit is based on the earnings of the deceased worker. The more he or she paid into Social Security, the higher the benefits. The amount a survivor receives is based on a percentage of the deceased’s basic Social Security benefit. The following provides the most typical situations:

  • Widow or widower full retirement age or older: 100 percent.
  • Widow or widower age 60 to 64: 71 – 94 percent.
  • Widow or widower at any age with a child under age 16: 75 percent.
  • Children under 19: 75 percent.

A person is receiving widow/widower’s benefits can switch to their own retirement benefits as early as age 62. In many cases, a widow/widower can begin receiving one benefit at a reduced rate and then switch to the other benefit at an unreduced rate at full retirement age. However, SSA will not pay both benefits, only the higher of the two. For more information, call 1.800.772.1213 and ask for “Social Security – Survivors Benefits” Publication No. 05-10084 or download it :

To file for benefits, you should call 1.800.772.1213 and ask for an appointment.


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