Social Security Survivor Benefits

According to the Social Security Administration (SSA) Almost a Half Billion in Social Security benefit checks go uncashed each year. These uncashed checks are unclaimed assets and they can be recovered, there is a 3 year time limit. There are millions of other unclaimed benefits being held. Many survivors or heirs of decedents who paid into Social Security are not aware they are entitled to receive benefits. A widow or widower, the descendents children and even the descendent's parents may be eligible to receive benefits. Many are not aware of the one-time lump sum death benefit which could be payable to either the spouse or to the decedents minor children.

Benefits are paid from the time of the application rather than the worker's death, so it's important to file immediately. Beneficiaries can apply at a Social Security Administration office. You will need the following documents: proof of worker's death, worker's social security number, birth certificates and social security numbers of the spouse and dependent children, marriage certificates for widows or widowers, divorce papers for divorced spouses and the deceased's W-2s.

To qualify for survivor benefits, a worker must have accumulated credits before death. For each year that a worker has paid Social Security taxes, they receive four credits. The younger a worker is when they die, the fewer credits they need. 40 credits (10 working years) are sufficient for anyone to qualify. If the deceased has a minor child, the minimum number of credits decreases to six in the three years preceding the worker's death.

Widows or widowers are entitled to receive full benefits when they reach retirement age, which is 66 for those born from 1945 to 1955 and 67 for those born after 1967. Partial widow or widower benefits can begin as early as 60. Additionally, if the spouse is disabled, benefits begin at 50. A widow or widower receives 75 percent of benefits, if caring for a child under 16 years old.

A divorced spouse may qualify if they are over the age of 60 and married to the deceased worker for at least 10 years. This rule does not apply if the divorced spouse is caring for the deceased's minor (under 16) or disabled child. If the divorced spouse receive benefits for this type of situation, it decreases the amount of benefits other family members receive.

Children under the age of 18 - 19 can receive benefits if they are not married and they are enrolled in school - they are eligible to receive 75 percent of benefits. If a child became disabled by the age of 22, they can receive continuous benefits if they remain disabled. Stepchildren, grandchildren or adopted children are evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

If the deceased worker provided half of the support to his or her parents, the dependent parents may be eligible for benefits if they are older than 62.

Remarrying before the age of 60 prevents the payment of benefits to the widow or widower. At 62, benefits may be based on the current spouse's wages if those benefits are greater than the former spouse. Working before retirement age reduces the amount of benefits you are qualified to receive.

Claim For Amounts Due In The Case Of Deceased Beneficiary - Form SSA-1724

A deceased beneficiary may have been due a Social Security payment at the time of death. Amounts due a deceased beneficiary may be paid to a family member or a legal representative of the estate in the following order.

  1. The surviving spouse who was either living in the same household as the deceased at the time of death or who, for the month of death, was entitled to a monthly benefit on the same record as the deceased;

  2. Children who, for the month of death, were entitled to a monthly benefit on the same record as the deceased;

  3. Parents who, for the month of death, were entitled to a monthly benefit on the same record as the deceased;

  4. A surviving spouse not qualified under 1. above;

  5. Children not qualified under 2. above;

  6. Parents not qualified under 3. above; or

  7. The legal representative of the deceased person's estate.

The foregoing Social Security information is unofficial. Contact the Social Security Office at 800-772-1213 for full information.

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