Social Security Survivor Benefits for a Dependent: How They Can Help Your Family
Your dependents — including your children, parents and spouse — may be eligible for Social Security survivors benefits when you pass away. Each is eligible for different benefit amounts depending on their age, disability status and relationship to you.
- Written by Lindsey Crossmier
Lindsey Crossmier is an accomplished writer with experience working for The Florida Review and Bookstar PR. As a financial writer, she covers Medicare, life insurance and dental insurance topics for RetireGuide. Research-based data drives her work.Read More
- Edited BySavannah Hanson
Senior Financial Editor
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- Reviewed ByBrandon Renfro, Ph.D., CFP®, RICP®, EA
Brandon Renfro, Ph.D., CFP®, RICP®, EA
Retirement and Social Security Expert
Brandon Renfro is a Retirement and Social Security Expert and financial planner. He focuses on helping clients create a secure financial future in retirement and co-owns Belonging Wealth Management. He is also a former finance professor and writes for several publications.Read More
- Published: April 18, 2023
- Updated: May 16, 2023
- 7 min read time
- This page features 13 Cited Research ArticlesKey Takeaways
- Depending on the dependent’s relationship to the deceased worker and other factors, they may receive between 71.5% and 100% of the worker’s full retirement benefit.
- There’s no limit on how many family members can receive Social Security survivors benefits, but the total amount everyone receives can’t exceed 180% of the worker’s full retirement benefit amount.
- You can apply for Social Security benefits at your local Social Security Administration office or by calling 1-800-772-1213.
Who Is Eligible for Social Security Dependent Benefits?
Most immediate family members may be eligible to receive Social Security survivors benefits for dependents. This includes spouses, dependent parents and children.
Each group has different eligibility requirements and can qualify for varying benefits. You’ll want to review this information carefully before you file your claim.Types of Dependents Eligible for Survivors Benefits
- Dependent Children
- Dependent Spouses
- Dependent Parents
- Disabled Children
How Much Can Dependents Receive?
The Social Security Administration calculates dependents’ survivors benefit amounts based on the full retirement benefit earned by the deceased worker.
Survivors receive different percentages of the worker’s overall benefit based on their relationship to the deceased. In some cases, benefit amounts change based on the claimant’s age.
Benefits for Spouses
Many factors influence how much a person can receive in spousal benefits, including age and the length of the marriage.
Spouses of Retirees
Spouses of retirees may receive up to 50% of their spouse’s full retirement benefit amount in spousal benefits. The spouse must be at least age 62 or have a child under age 16 in their care.
Surviving spouses may receive up to 100% of their deceased spouse’s full retirement benefit amount.
To get the full amount, a spouse must also be of full retirement age. If a spouse is between 60 and full retirement age, they can get 71.5% to 99% of the full benefit. If a spouse is between the ages of 50 and 59 and has a documented disability, they can receive up to 71.5% of the full amount.
Divorced spouses may receive spousal benefits through an ex-spouse if they are age 62 or older, were married to their ex-spouse for at least 10 years and did not remarry.
Qualifying former spouses can receive the same amount as current spouses would at the same age.3 Minute Quiz: Can You Retire Comfortably?Take our free quiz & match with a financial advisor in 3 easy steps. Tailored to your goals. Near you or online.
Benefits for Children
Children may be eligible for survivors benefits through Social Security if their natural parent dies before they turn 18. In some cases, children may also claim survivors benefits from a deceased adopted parent, step-parent, grandparent or step-grandparent.
Children can receive up to 75% of the deceased worker’s full retirement benefit in survivors benefits, but benefits end when the child turns 18.
Benefits for Disabled Children
Disabled children can receive Social Security survivors benefits past the age of 18. To qualify, a child must have a physical or mental condition that severely limits activities and that doctors expect to last longer than one year or result in death. This disability also must have begun before a child was 22.
Benefits for Dependent Parents
A parent can receive Social Security benefits from their deceased child’s Social Security work record if a number of eligibility factors are met.Social Security Survivors Benefits Eligibility Requirements for Parents
- The parent is 62 or older
- The parent was receiving at least half of their financial support from their deceased child at the time of the child’s death
- The parent is not entitled to a higher benefit amount through their own Social Security retirement benefits
- The parent did not remarry after their child passed away
A single parent claiming parent’s benefits can receive up to 81.5% of their deceased child’s full retirement benefit amount. If two parents claim benefits, each may receive up to 75% of the child’s full retirement benefit amount.
How To Apply for Social Security Dependent Benefits
You can apply for Social Security dependent benefits at your local Social Security Administration office or by phone at 1-800-772-1213.You’ll need to supply the following information:
You’ll also be asked to provide the following documents:
- Your name and Social Security number
- The name and Social Security number of the deceased worker
- Your relationship to the deceased worker
- Whether you or the deceased worker were married and the status of any marriages
- Whether you applied for Social Security, Medicare or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) in the past.
- Your birth certificate, proof of U.S. citizenship or proof of lawful alien status
- W-2 forms or tax returns for the previous year
- Military discharge papers if you served in the U.S. military before 1968
- A death certificate of the deceased worker
In some circumstances, you may need additional documents. For example, if you apply as a person with a disability, you’ll need to provide completed versions of forms SSA-3368 and SSA-827.
If you apply for benefits through your spouse or ex-spouse, you’ll need to provide your marriage certificate or divorce decree. And if you apply for benefits for a non-natural child, you’ll need to provide proof of adoption or proof of marriage between the child’s parent and the deceased worker.
Tips for a Smooth Application Process
First, if you plan to apply in person, schedule an appointment with your local Social Security Administration office. Gather all necessary documents before beginning your application. If you don’t have some of the required documents, Social Security staff can help you get them.
Determine what other benefits you may be entitled to and how they might affect your claim. For example, you may be eligible for a higher retirement benefit based on your own record than what you could claim in dependent benefits.
And be prepared for a brief wait before you receive your benefits. Most people receive their benefits 30 to 60 days after applying.
Other Important Factors To Keep in Mind
Your dependents can claim Social Security dependent benefits while working if they meet all other requirements. However, there are tax implications for doing this.
Social Security dependent benefits may be taxable depending on the recipient’s combined income. Combined income is defined as half of the recipient’s Social Security income plus all their other income.
If the recipient is single and their combined income is between $25,000 and $34,000, they will pay income taxes on up to 50% of their benefits. If their combined income is greater than $34,000, they will pay income taxes on up to 85% of their benefits.
If the recipient is filing jointly with a spouse and the pair has a combined income between $32,000 and $44,000, they will pay income taxes on up to 50% of their benefits. If their combined income is greater than $44,000, they will pay income taxes on up to 85% of their benefits.
Frequently Asked Questions About Social Security Survivors Benefits for DependentsWhat happens to Social Security dependent benefits if the primary beneficiary passes away?If you’re already receiving Social Security dependent benefits, you’ll automatically get switched to survivors benefits. In most cases, the amount you receive won’t change.How does remarriage affect Social Security dependent benefits?If you remarry while your ex-spouse is still alive, you won’t be eligible to collect dependent benefits from your ex-spouse. Similarly, if you remarried before age 60 but after your spouse passed away, you can’t collect on the ex-spouse's benefits. If you’re already collecting benefits, those benefits will stop when you remarry. However, remarrying after age 60 doesn’t affect these payments.Is there a limit on the number of people who can receive Social Security dependent benefits based on one person’s work history?There’s no cap on the number of survivors who can collect, but there is a cap on the amount that all the survivors can get cumulatively. For most people, the cap is between 150% to 180% of the full retirement benefit.Last Modified: May 16, 2023Share This Page
13 Cited Research Articles
- Hounsell, C. (2022, November 1). Survivor Benefits: Four Tips Widows Need to Know. Social Security Matters. Retrieved from https://blog.ssa.gov/survivor-benefits-four-tips-widows-need-to-know/
- Social Security Administration. (2022, September). Survivors Benefits. Retrieved from https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10084.pdf
- Social Security Administration. (2022, June). Benefits for Children. Retrieved from https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10085.pdf
- Social Security Administration. (2022, January). Parent’s Benefits. Retrieved from https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10036.pdf
- Borland, J. (2021, October 14). Will Remarrying Affect My Social Security Benefits? Social Security Matters. Retrieved from https://blog.ssa.gov/will-remarriage-affect-my-social-security-benefits/
- Muschick, P. (2019, March 30). Widow’s survivor benefits held up by Social Security. The Morning Call. Retrieved from https://www.mcall.com/2016/02/06/widows-survivor-benefits-held-up-by-social-security/
- Social Security Administration. (2013, September 25). Benefits for Spouses. Retrieved from https://www.ssa.gov/oact/quickcalc/spouse.html
- Social Security Administration. (n.d.). Benefits For Your Family. Retrieved from https://www.ssa.gov/benefits/retirement/planner/applying7.html
- Social Security Administration. (n.d.). Disability Benefits | Family Benefits. Retrieved from https://www.ssa.gov/benefits/disability/family.html
- Social Security Administration. (n.d.). Form SSA-4 | Information You Need To Apply for Child's Benefits. Retrieved from https://www.ssa.gov/forms/ssa-4.html
- Social Security Administration. (n.d.). Form SSA-10 | Information You Need to Apply for Widow's, Widower's or Surviving Divorced Spouse's Benefits. Retrieved from https://www.ssa.gov/forms/ssa-10.html
- Social Security Administration. (n.d.). Income Taxes And Your Social Security Benefit. Retrieved from https://www.ssa.gov/benefits/retirement/planner/taxes.html
- Social Security Administration. (n.d.). Planning for Your Survivors. Retrieved from https://www.ssa.gov/benefits/survivors/onyourown.html
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