What Is A Social Security Death Benefit?

••• Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of Jonelle B.

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When a person who has paid into the Social Security system for the required number of employment quarters dies, the surviving spouse or children may be eligible for a one-time payment of $255 to assist with funeral expenses. In addition to this lump-sum payment, survivors may be eligible for monthly benefits.

Widow or Widower

If you are a surviving spouse, you are eligible for full benefits at retirement age (66 or 67, depending on the year you were born). Before that age, you may receive a reduced benefit that will be updated when you reach retirement age. If you are a disabled widow or widower, you are eligible for survivor benefits at age 50. If you are caring for a dependent child 15 years old or younger, you can receive benefits regardless of your age.


Children are eligible to receive survivor benefits if they are permanently disabled before age 22. Unmarried children are eligible until age 19 if they are full-time high school students, or age 18 if they are not. In certain circumstances, benefits may be provided to adopted children, grandchildren or stepchildren.

Divorced Spouse

If you are a divorced spouse of the decedent, you are eligible to receive survivor benefits if you are 60 or older or are caring for a disabled child or a child under the age of 16. If you are disabled, you are eligible at age 50. If you are not caring for a child, you must have been married at least 10 years. If you get married again before you reach age 60 (or 50 for a disabled divorced spouse), you relinquish your rights to survivor benefits.

Dependent Parents

If you are a parent of the deceased, are 62 or older and were receiving at least half of your annual income from your child, you may be eligible for survivor benefits

Benefits Determination

To find out how much you may be eligible for in survivor benefits, refer to the deceased person's Social Security statement. This report is sent out every year to all workers over the age of 25 and contains information about estimated survivor benefits based on the amount of earned income on which Social Security taxes were paid throughout the worker's lifetime.


About the Author

A freelance writer for more than 30 years, D.M. Gutierrez has had nonfiction, fiction and poetry published in women's, mystery, academic, children's, disability and teen print publications and websites including "Psychological Reports" and "Highlights for Children." She has an advanced degree in psychology from the University of California at Davis.

Photo Credits

  • Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of Jonelle B.