is committed to providing families with as much assistance
as we possibly can, and when it comes to obtaining any benefits
to which you are entitled, you can be confident that we will
competently assist and guide you through the process.
When a death occurs, generally the first form that we complete
and file is the "Statement of Death by Funeral Director"
form. The Social Security Administration is not able to
proceed with any claim until they receive this form, so
we try to prevent any delays in your receiving death benefits
from Social Security by filing the necessary paperwork a
very timely fashion.
The following information is designed to assist you in
understanding your eligibility for Social Security Benefits
and how to proceed when filing a claim for Social Security
Benefits. If you do not find the information you are looking
for here, more information is available from the Social
Security Administration web site, www.ssa.gov or you can click on the Social Security Administration button
at the bottom of this page.
Part 1—If You're Working
...What You Need To Know About Survivors Benefits
"Life Insurance" From Social Security
Many people think of Social Security as a retirement program,
but retirement benefits are just one facet of the Social
Some of the Social Security taxes you pay go towards survivors
insurance. In fact, the value of the survivors insurance
you have under Social Security is probably more than the
value of your individual life insurance.
When someone who has worked and paid into Social Security
dies, survivor benefits can be paid to certain family members.
These include widows, widowers (and divorced widows and
widowers), children, and dependent parents.
You, along with millions of other people, earn survivors
insurance by working and paying Social Security taxes. Right
now, 98 out of every 100 children could get benefits if
a working parent should die. In fact, Social Security pays
more benefits to children than any other federal program.
How Do You Earn Survivors Benefits?
When you die, certain members of your family may be eligible
for survivors benefits if you worked, paid Social Security
taxes, and earned enough "credits." You can earn a maximum
of four credits each year. The number of credits you need
depends on your age when you die. The younger a person is,
the fewer credits he or she needs to have family members meet
the eligibility requirements for survivors benefits. But no
one needs more than 40 credits (10 years of work) to be eligible
for any Social Security benefits.
Under a special rule, benefits can be paid to your
children and your spouse who is caring for the children,
even though you do not have the number of credits needed.
They can get benefits if you have credit for one and one
half years of work in the three years just before your death.
Who Can Get Survivors Benefits?
When you die, Social Security survivors benefits can be
paid to your:
- widow or widower—full benefits at 65 or older
(if born before 1940) or reduced benefits as early as
age 60. (The age for receiving full benefits gradually
increases for persons born after 1939 until it reaches
age 67 for persons born in 1962 and later.) A disabled
widow or widower can get benefits at 50-60. The surviving
spouse's benefits may be reduced if he or she also receives
a pension from a job where Social Security taxes were
- widow or widower at any age if she or he takes
care of your child under 16 or disabled who get benefits;
- unmarried children under 18 (or up to age 19
if they are attending elementary or secondary school full
time). Your child can get benefits at any age if he or
she was disabled before age 22 and remained disabled.
Under certain circumstances, benefits also can be paid
to your stepchildren, grandchildren, or adopted children;
- dependent parents at 62 or older.
Special One-Time Death Benefit
There is a special one-time payment of $255 that can be
made when you die if you have enough work "credits." This
payment can be made only to your spouse or minor children
if they meet certain requirements.
Benefits for Surviving Divorced Spouses
If you've been divorced, your former wife or husband can
get benefits under the same circumstances as your widow
or widower if your marriage lasted 10 years or more. Your
former spouse, however, does not have to meet the length-of-marriage
rule if she or he is caring for your child who is under
16 or disabled and who is also getting benefits on your
Social Security record. The child must be your former spouse's
natural or legally adopted child.
Benefits paid to a surviving divorced spouse who is age
60 or older (50-60 if disabled) will not affect the benefit
rates for other survivors getting benefits.
How Much Are Benefits?
Part 2—If A Loved One
Has Died ... What You Need To Know About Survivors Benefits
How much your family can get from Social Security depends
on your average lifetime earnings. That means the higher
your earnings, the higher their benefits will be.
How Do I Apply For Benefits?
How you sign up for survivors benefits depends on whether
or not you're getting other Social Security benefits.
If You Aren't Getting Social Security Benefits
You should apply for survivors benefits promptly because,
in some cases, benefits may not be retroactive. You can
apply by telephone or at any Social Security office.
The Social Security representative will need certain information
to process your application. It is helpful if you have it
when you apply. But don't delay applying if you don't have
everything; a Social Security representative can help you
obtain the necessary materials. They need either original
documents or copies certified by the agency that issued
The information needed includes:
- Proof of death—either from funeral home or death certificate;
- Your Social Security number, as well as the worker's;
- Your birth certificate;
- Your marriage certificate if you're a widow or widower;
- Your divorce papers if you're applying as a surviving
- Dependent children's Social Security numbers, if available;
- Deceased worker's W-2 forms or federal self-employment
tax return for the most recent year; and
- The name of your bank and your account number so your
benefits can be directly deposited into your account.
If You Are Already Receiving Social Security Benefits
If you're getting benefits as a wife or husband on your
spouse's record when he or she dies, you should report the
death to Social Security and they will change your payments
to survivors benefits. If they need more information, a
Social Security representative will contact you.
If you're getting benefits on your own record, you'll need
to complete an application to get survivors benefits. Call
or visit a Social Security Office and they will check to
see if you can get more money as a widow or widower. A Social
Security representative will need to see a certified copy
of your spouse's death certificate to process your claim.
The certified copy can then be returned to you.
Benefits for any children will automatically be changed
to survivors benefits after the death is reported. A Social
Security representative will contact you if they need more
How Much Will I Receive?
The amount of your benefit is based on the earnings of the
person who died. The more he or she paid into Social Security,
the higher your benefits will be.
The amount you will get is a percentage of the deceased's
basic Social Security benefit. The percentage depends on
your age and the type of benefit you are eligible for. Here
are the most typical situations.
- widow or widower, age 65 or older—100 percent;
- widow or widower age, 60-64—about 71-94 percent;
- widow, any age, with a child under age 16—75 percent;
- children—75 percent
Maximum Family Benefits
There is a limit to the amount of money that can be paid
to you and other family members each month. The limit varies,
but is generally equal to about 150 to 180 percent of the
deceased's benefit rate. If the sum of the benefits payable
to the family members is greater than this limit, the benefits
will be reduced proportionately.
Retirement Benefits For Widow(ers)
What If I Work?
If you get Social Security survivors benefits, the amount
of your benefits may be reduced if your earnings exceed
certain limits. There's no earnings limit once you reach
Your earnings will reduce only your survivors benefits,
not the benefits of other family members.
What If I Remarry?
Generally, you can't get survivors benefits if you remarry.
But, remarriage after age 60 (50 if disabled) will not prevent
benefit payments on your former spouse's record. And, at
age 62 or older, you may get benefits on the record of your
new spouse if they are higher.
A Word About Medicare
Medicare is a health insurance plan for people who are age
65 or older. People who are disabled or have kidney failure
also can get Medicare. Medicare has two parts—hospital insurance
and medical insurance. Most people have both parts. Hospital
insurance, sometimes called Part A, covers inpatient hospital
care and certain follow-up care. The worker already paid
for it as part of his or her Social Security taxes while
he or she was working. Medical insurance, sometimes called
Part B, pays for physicians' services and some other services
not covered by hospital insurance. Medical insurance is
optional, and you must pay a premium. Some people are already
getting Social Security benefits when they turn 65, and
their Medicare starts automatically. Others must file an
application. For more information, call the Health Care
Financing Administration at 1-800 MEDICAR(E) and ask for
a copy of the handbook, "Medicare and You". You also can
visit the website at www.medicare.gov.
We understand that you may have additional questions regarding
benefits and who may be eligible. Should you desire more
information, we encourage you to contact us at (630) 834-1133
or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.