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Survivor’s Benefits

When a household suffers the loss of a family member, the impact on the survivors is often financial as well as emotional, especially if the family member was a wage-earner. If the worker was paying into the Social Security program, however, the survivors may be eligible for benefits. For Social Security, “survivors” include spouses, dependent children, and parents.

Spouses may be eligible for survivor benefits if the marriage lasted at least one year, or if the individual shared a natural child with the insured person. A divorced spouse may also be eligible if the marriage lasted ten years. Survivor benefits can be paid out to a widow or widower as early as age 60, or at full retirement age. They may also be paid to a disabled spouse between the ages of 50 and 60, if the disability starts within seven years of the insured’s death.

The dependent children of the deceased worker may also be entitled to benefits, if they are under age 18 and unmarried. For Social Security, a “child” may be a natural child, legally adopted child, stepchild, grandchild, stepgrandchild, or equitably adopted child. Proof of dependency may include a showing that the child lived with the insured, received contributions for support, or one-half of their support from the insured.

Likewise, parents of the insured worker may be eligible for benefits, if the parent is over the age of 62, has not married since the worker died, and was receiving at least half of their support from the deceased worker. Also, the parent’s benefit amount must be greater than the entitlement on an old-age benefit.

Lastly, it is important to remember that Social Security Administration can also pay a lump-sum death benefit of $255 to a spouse or child who was living the deceased person at the time of death. The payment application must be filed within two years of the insured’s death.


20 C.F.R. §404.330(a)

20 C.F.R. §404.331 (a)

20 C.F.R. §404.335(c)

20 C.F.R. §404.350(a)

20 C.F.R. §404.354

20 C.F.R. §§404.360 – 404.366

20 C.F.R. §404.370

20 C.F.R. §404.390

20 C.F.R. §§404.391 – 404.392

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