Social Security survivors’ benefits for widow/ers and children

family of four on floor

Survivors’ benefits are a type of Social Security benefits paid to surviving family members when someone dies.  This may include benefits paid to the widow(er), parents or children.

In my experience, not a lot of attorneys take survivors’ benefits cases so it is difficult to get your questions answered:

  • Am I, or my children, eligible for survivors’ benefits?
  • When am I, or my children, eligible for survivors’ benefits?
  • Social Security stopped my, or my children’s, survivors’ benefits.  Why?

Social Security has a Electronic Fact Sheet which provides a summary of who may be eligible to receive monthly benefits. If Social Security stops your survivors’ benefits, knowing who may be eligible can help you figure out if the cessation of benefits is proper or not.

Some of the deceased’s family members may be eligible to receive Social Security benefits if the deceased person worked long enough under Social Security to qualify for benefits.

Who can get survivors’ benefits?

1) A widow or widower age 60 or older (age 50 or older if disabled);

2) A surviving spouse at any age who is caring for the deceased’s child under age 16 or disabled;

3) An unmarried child of the deceased who is: a) Younger than age 18 (or age 18 or 19 if he or she is a full-time student in an elementary or secondary school); or b) Age 18 or older with a disability that began before age 22;

4) Parents, age 62 or older, who were dependent on the deceased for at least half of their support; and

5) A surviving divorced spouse, under certain circumstances.

These benefits are in addition to the one time “death benefit.”

A one-time payment of $255 can be paid to the surviving spouse if he or she was living with the deceased; or, if living apart, was receiving certain Social Security benefits on the deceased’s record. If there is no surviving spouse, the payment is made to a child who is eligible for benefits on the deceased’s record in the month of death.

Note:  this is just an overview.  There are specific requirements for widow(er)’s benefits and children’s survivors benefits, and parent’s benefits (if caring for a child under 16).

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Disclaimer: This is NOT legal advice. This site provides general information about Social Security disability cases in Colorado. To discuss your particular circumstances, please contact a lawyer in your area. Please review the full disclaimer .

About Tomasz Stasiuk

Tomasz Stasiuk is a Colorado Springs Social Security disability lawyer and the founding attorney of the Stasiuk Firm - a law firm specializing in Social Security disability cases in Colorado. Follow Tomasz Stasiuk on Google and Twitter

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  • ben

    hey tom i could really use your help right now because I am dealing with a overpayment nightmare well for me anyway I was disable at brith my mom said that she appied for benefits for me in 1979 but she said it was really for my sister who was also disable I am 30 now so I did not get benefits until i was 20 when i appied for myself it was only for 580.00 and that was in 1999 but then after that my dad start getting so they cut my ssi down to 180.00 and gave me some of my dads 404.00 wow I know 4.00 so then they would underpaid me 2160.00 and then they said we can't pay you because we used your money to pay off who we overpaid on the same record huh thats what i said then in 2004 i started working part time I reported it so they turn off my ssi but said they overpaid me and that I owe the 2168.00 they did not try to get anything 2years until I tax time so then my dads died may 2006 they say we will raise you benefits 648.00 sb but oh ya we overpaid you so we are going to withhold your full benefits untill we get our money back and this has nothing too with ssi I paid them back the 8700.00 but they took over 13k I did not get a check from oct 2006 until march of 2008 and it was for 92.00 they said I owed for medicare 1491.00 that while they were withhold the money they did not pay but if you do the math 689.60 jan 689.60 feb and 597.60 march thats 1976.60 in medicare alone and now they wont me too pay another 4688.50 that I dont owe saying that its too pay back the rest of the ssi 13k I can prove I paid its on the irs transcrip + I paid taxs every years that i work on all my income I have AJK hearing some time I just fill out the paper I have not work sense oct 2007 I only get 593.00 wow I know its my only income and they know that will you be my lawyer pls cant find one thanks for your time

  • ben

    hey tom i could really use your help right now because I am dealing with a overpayment nightmare well for me anyway I was disable at brith my mom said that she appied for benefits for me in 1979 but she said it was really for my sister who was also disable I am 30 now so I did not get benefits until i was 20 when i appied for myself it was only for 580.00 and that was in 1999 but then after that my dad start getting so they cut my ssi down to 180.00 and gave me some of my dads 404.00 wow I know 4.00 so then they would underpaid me 2160.00 and then they said we can't pay you because we used your money to pay off who we overpaid on the same record huh thats what i said then in 2004 i started working part time I reported it so they turn off my ssi but said they overpaid me and that I owe the 2168.00 they did not try to get anything 2years until I tax time so then my dads died may 2006 they say we will raise you benefits 648.00 sb but oh ya we overpaid you so we are going to withhold your full benefits untill we get our money back and this has nothing too with ssi I paid them back the 8700.00 but they took over 13k I did not get a check from oct 2006 until march of 2008 and it was for 92.00 they said I owed for medicare 1491.00 that while they were withhold the money they did not pay but if you do the math 689.60 jan 689.60 feb and 597.60 march thats 1976.60 in medicare alone and now they wont me too pay another 4688.50 that I dont owe saying that its too pay back the rest of the ssi 13k I can prove I paid its on the irs transcrip + I paid taxs every years that i work on all my income I have AJK hearing some time I just fill out the paper I have not work sense oct 2007 I only get 593.00 wow I know its my only income and they know that will you be my lawyer pls cant find one thanks for your time

  • joe

    my girlfreind of 17 years has lung cancer we have a 10 year old im on disabilitie for phsyc issues doctoers say she got less then two years we want get married what happen when she passes with socaail secrity i get it for my son now from me were both 39 yrs old does my son get survivor benifets do i get ss

  • cathy gray

    after my kids surviors benifits started, the worker had me come in and told me they had other benifits, but I needed to get their fathers death certificate. well I did that and its been several years since I've heard anything.how do I find out about this? I questioned this one time and she said it could take a long time. Also I had aplied in 2001 , got the last paper I needed to get in before the case was no longer opened, which it had already been at the least 1 1/2 to 2 years , the lady told me there was nothing on the computer showing I ever applied. I've been alittle suspious about the whole thing. I know it would be in the computer some where. How could I go about checking into that?

  • http://www.ColoradoSocialSecurityLaw.com TomaszStasiuk
  • Lori O'Mara

    what if the child is 18 and in college could they still get Social Security

  • http://www.ColoradoSocialSecurityLaw.com TomaszStasiuk

    I have written about this issue here: http://www.socialsecurityinsider.com/2010/01/ca

  • carolyn chapman

    can i get benefits if my husband of 31 years died?

  • carolhogan

    I’m a 57 yr old widow with no resources or income todays job market has made it impossible for me to seek employment hardship would explain my situation. I have read I could be eligble for ssi under the federal program. It says its funded from general revenues, not from social security taxes.

  • Pkpeters7

    I’m 55 years old on full mentl;a health disability if I die would my wife of 30 years still collect my benefits until she retires from her job ?

    thank you,

    Phil

  • http://www.Planet10Tech.com TomaszStasiuk

    The post discusses who may be eligible for survivor’s benefits and how Social Security makes its decision.

    If you need assistance with this, you can call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 and they will walk you through the process of determining if your wife would be eligible.

    All my best!

  • Verna Cordova

    Tom: Do you or can you handle an appeal for widow’s benefits that have been denied by SS because I was not married to my deceased spouse for more than 9 months but lived with him for 7 yrs. in Colorado under common law. Lots of written information shows I was presented as his wife. Nancy Sanchez – at verna.cordova@gmail.com. Really need your help. Thanks.

  • http://www.Planet10Tech.com TomaszStasiuk

    Hi, Verna. My office takes some widow’s benefit cases where SSA denied the claim based on lack of evidence of marriage. It depends on what evidence is available. You can call my office if you are interested in a consultation: http://www.stasiukfirm.com/contact/

  • Pingback: Can you receive Social Security benefits if your husband or wife dies? | Colorado Social Security Law()

  • Reeliberty33

    I have legal guardian ship for my two grandkids ,if something happens to me are they entitled to my benefits?

  • http://www.Planet10Tech.com TomaszStasiuk

    Grandchildren are sometimes eligible to receive Social Security benefits when a grandparent dies. Take a look at the article and links here: http://www.socialsecurityinsider.com/2010/01/can-adopted-children-receive-social-security-benefits-because-of-parents-disability/

    To address your specific circumstances though, I encourage you to contact Social Security.

  • Susie Larkin

    I am a surviving widow. next year i will be 60 yrs. old  will my benifits re- start automatically since our children are no longer eligible? 

  • http://www.Planet10Tech.com TomaszStasiuk

    This article provides more details about survivor’s eligibility: http://www.socialsecurityinsider.com/2009/01/can-you-receive-social-security-benefits-if-your-husband-or-wife-dies/

    Note: Social Security does not automatically start programs. If you believe you are eligible, you should apply with Social Security.

  • Sjns8844

    A couple friends of mine, both males, had their spouses SS benefits cut off when their wives died. It is my understanding that they should be entitled to widow’s benefits. Does SS not automatically transfer their wives benefits over to their spouses or do they have to go into the office and request it? Are they not entitled to receive their benefits? It leaves them less to live on since the money they were both receiving was what they used to pay their mortgage and bills. Why should the husband be left with less to live on when the wife dies?

  • http://www.Planet10Tech.com TomaszStasiuk

    As you mention, there are widow/er’s benefits available: http://www.socialsecurityinsider.com/2009/01/can-you-receive-social-security-benefits-if-your-husband-or-wife-dies/

    However, I am not aware of any kind of “transfer” of benefits from the deceased spouse’s side. I am checking what happens in this situation with some other practitioners. 

  • http://www.Planet10Tech.com TomaszStasiuk

    I think the best people to contact (if you do not want to deal with SSA directly) is Social Security Advice Online. They are a national company made up of former Social Security managers. Note: this is a private company not affiliated with the Social Security Administration. You can reach them at http://socialsecurityadviceonline.com and (513) 860-5924. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/michele.l.shearer Michele Lynn Shearer

    SOCIAL SECURITY NEED LAWYERDoes anyone know a lawyer, that would help me with social security because they giving me some bs with the kids survivor benefits cuz their dad owed money that he got over payed before the kids were alive, the money they owed was waved and now they saying they owe double back and trying to say i only applied for raelynn money owed to be waved! On top of that the person that waved the money owed does not work at the office that i meet with her at which is the downtown pittsburgh pa one! I’m so mad cuz they are understaffed my kids had already paid over 3000 back while waiting for the waiver now they want to take more and not even pay back the money they took!By: Michele Lynn Shearer

  • http://www.facebook.com/michele.l.shearer Michele Lynn Shearer

    ty i appreciate please help with a recommendation

  • http://www.facebook.com/michele.l.shearer Michele Lynn Shearer

    I’ve been dealing with this for two years now and having issue  with finding a lawyer to take case i want them to pay my kids their money back and to stop taking more money from them they are taking over 5 or 600 dollars! 

  • http://www.Planet10Tech.com TomaszStasiuk

    Try Social Security Advice Online. They are a national company made up of former Social Security managers. Note: this is a private company not affiliated with the Social Security Administration. You can reach them at http://socialsecurityadviceonline.com.

  • Trana Jones

    What if your Father(who was discharged from the service for disability) died after the child was 18 and before the child was married but never received any benefits? Also, how do you go about receiving money owed to your deceased father who was to receive a settlement for his involvement in “Agent Orange”?

  • Guest

    I have a friend who’s husband was on SSDI for a depressive disorder, and he just committed suicide.  She has a lot on her plate, and I’m trying to find out for her – I know she would normally be eligible for survivor benefits because they have children, but is that still the case with him having committed suicide?  Does that effect anything like it would normal insurance?  She’s concerned about it, but obviously overwhelmed with too much else, and I’m hoping to find out some answers for her and a few of us make sure she’s got things taken care of so she has less to worry about.  I would appreciate it.

  • http://www.Planet10Tech.com TomaszStasiuk

    I am sorry for your friend’s loss. I can’t guess about eligibility for benefits. I encourage you or your friend to contact Social Security directly.

  • Honeybee62314

    social security is not like life insurance. so sorry for the loss. however, she needs to apply for benefits for herself as well as her children.

  • Czechcheckers

    Is their grants, programs that can pay for my education. I am a 48 yr old widow that is having problems making ends meet can you please help