How To Apply For Survivors Benefits [Step-By-Step Process]

Have you lost a loved one in a sudden accident? If you have lost your spouse you may be eligible to receive survivors benefits. 

If you have young children at home, these benefits can help you continue providing for them.

Losing a loved one is a very stressful and challenging experience. Finding emotional and financial support will be vital for you and your family. 

The Social Security Administration provides support in the form of benefits for widows, widowers, and children of eligible workers. 

These benefits can help the surviving family cover funeral expenses and costs of daily living. 

This article will go over what Survivors Benefits include, who qualifies to receive them, and the application process. 

Quick Navigation Article Links

How Does Social Security Help You When Your Loved One Dies

When someone dies, you should notify the Social Security Administration as soon as you can. 

The Social Security Administration will provide information and access to certain benefits when your spouse has died. 

There is a one-time Death Benefit, payments under Survivors Benefits, and you may be eligible to apply for your deceased spouse’s Social Security Retirement benefits. 

To learn more about these provisions read on or view this link. . 

What Are Death Benefits

The Death Benefit is a one-time lump-sum payment for the spouse of the deceased. 

The Death Benefit will be paid to the surviving spouse if they lived with their deceased partner before they died, or if they lived apart but were receiving Social Security Benefits from their partner. 

If there is no living spouse of the deceased the payment will be made to a child who is eligible to receive the benefits. 

The lump-sum payment will be $255. 

What Documents Do I Need To Provide For The Death Benefit Lump Sum Payment 

To apply for the lump sum Death Benefit you will need to provide the following:

  • Birth certificate or other proof of birth
  • U.S. citizenship proof or proof of lawful alien status if you weren’t born in the U.S.
  • If you had military service before 1968 you need to provide U.S. military discharge paper(s)
  • W-2 forms or proof of self-employment (self-employment tax return) 
  • A death certificate for your deceased spouse or family member 

All documents must be original except the W-2 or self-employment tax return. Your tax documents can be a photocopy. All original documents will be returned to you once they have been reviewed.

https://ssaoffices.com/apply-survivors-benefits/

How Can I Apply For Death Benefits 

To report the death or apply for benefits you can call 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778)

You could also visit your local Social Security office. You do not need to book an appointment, however, if you can book an appointment ahead of time this could save you wait time. 

You may need to bring your marriage certificate, death certificate, SSN, and a form of ID. You should also bring your checkbook and bank information when you go to apply.

What Questions Will SS Ask Me When I Apply For Death Benefits

You will be asked:

  • Your Social Security number and your name 
  • The deceased person’s name, gender, birthday, and so on
  • The deceased person’s date and place of death
  • If the deceased worker ever filed for Social Security Benefit, Supplementary Income, or Medicare 
  • If the deceased person ever served in the military. If so, the details of their service. 
  • If the deceased person was not able to work due to an illness, condition, or injury during the 14 months before their death
  • If the deceased person worked 7 years or more for the railroad
  • Name, dates of birth, SSN, and other information of any previous spouses of the deceased person. 
  • Names, birthdays, and information of any children 19 or under or disabled before the age of 22. 
  • The deceased person’s earnings
  • If the deceased person has a parent who relied on them
  • If you were living with the deceased person at the time of death
See Also  How To Obtain Common Social Security Administration Forms [Step-By-Step Process]

If you are the person’s surviving spouse, you will also be asked:

  • If you have been unable to work for any reason 
  • If you have applied for any benefits, medicare, or Supplementary Security Income. 
  • Name, date, birth, and any other info of your previous spouses. 

When Will I Receive Death Benefits Payments

Once you have provided all the necessary documents, answer all Social Securities questions, and they have reviewed your case you should receive the death benefit lump sum payment within 30-60 days. 

Who Can Receive Survivors Benefits 

Widows and widowers, divorced spouses, children, stepchildren, and other family members could be eligible for Survivors Benefits. In some cases, the individual must prove they are related to the deceased or prove they are caring for the deceased’s child. 

If you are already receiving any sort of Social Security Benefits or payments, you will need to apply for Survivors Benefits separately. Social Security will then see if you should receive a higher payment. 

Widows Or Widowers 

The surviving spouse can receive Survivor Benefits as long as the deceased spouse worked long enough to qualify. You can receive full benefits at full retirement age or receive your benefits earlier at 60. However, if you receive your benefits earlier they will be smaller payments. 

If you are disabled and your condition started before or within 7 years of the worker’s death you can receive your benefits at age 50. 

If a widow or widower does not remarry and continues to care for children of the deceased worker that are younger than 16 or disabled, they can receive benefits at any age. 

If the surviving spouse remarries after 60, or after 50 for disabled their eligibility will not be affected.

To read more about specific situations and eligibility click here. 

Surviving Divorced Spouses

Surviving divorced spouses can receive Survivors Benefits if your marriage to the worker was longer than 10 years. If you already receive benefits that shouldn’t affect that will not affect the benefits any other survivors are paid. 

If the surviving spouse remarries after 60, or after 50 for disabled their eligibility will not be affected.

If you are caring for a child under 16 or disabled and receive benefits from your previous spouse you do not have to meet the 10-year length-of-marriage rule. The child must be the legally adopted or natural child of your former spouse. 

Minor Or Disabled Child

Any child under 18 or up to 19 if they are in school full time can be eligible for Survivors Benefits. If you were disabled before 22 years of age and are still disabled you could also qualify for benefits. 

Any stepchildren, natural children, grandchildren, or step-grandchildren could also be eligible to receive Survivors Benefits. 

Dependent Parent 

Any dependent parent 62 years or older who were relying on their working child may be eligible for Survivors Benefits. 

You need to have received at least half of your help and support from the deceased working child. Your estimated future retirement benefit must not be higher than the survivor’s benefit you would receive. And usually, you must not be married after the child’s death. There can be exceptions to that rule though. 

You can be the natural parent, adopted parent, or step-parent of the deceased working child. 

How Do I Apply For Childs Benefits

You can apply for Child’s Benefits by calling Social Securities national toll-free number at 1-800-772-1213 or (TTY 1-800-325-0778). You could also visit your local Social Security office. Find your nearest office here.

What Information Do I Need To Apply For Childs Benefits

You need to provide the following documents when applying for Childs Benefit:

  • Birth certificate of the child you are applying for 
  • Proof of your marriage to the child’s other parent
  • U.S. citizenship proof for child
  • W-2 forms or self-employment tax return if the child worked and had earnings in the last year
  • If one of the child’s parents is deceased you need to provide proof of death and U.S. military discharge papers. 

If the child you are applying for was disabled before the age of 22 you need to fill out the following forms:

  1. Adult Disability Report (SSA-3368); and
  2. Authorization to Disclose Information to the Social Security Administration (SSA-827).

You could also receive benefits for taking care of the child. Provide the following documents to help the Social Security Administration determine if you are eligible:

  • Your proof of birth or birth certificate 
  • Proof of marriage 
  • U.S. citizenship proof or proof of lawful alien status

What Questions Will You Be Asked When Applying For Childs Benefits

You will be asked about:

  • Your SSN and name
  • The name of the worker and their SSN
  • The child’s citizenship status 
  • The child’s ages, SSN and if they are disabled
  • If the child is 17.5 years or older, is currently a student, or working
  • If the child is a stepchild Social Security will ask when and where the child’s parent and step-parent were married
  • If you are an adoptive parent or natural parent you will need to clarify which child you are applying for 
  • If the child has any other legal representative 
  • If the child has been adopted by anyone besides the worker
  • If the child lived with the worker/deceased parent in the last 13 months. 
  • If the child has ever been married
  • If you applied for any Social Security Benefits, Medicare, or Supplemental Security Income for the child
  • The total earning of the child for the last year 
  • If the child was adopted, the date of adoption
  • If any child will be 65 within 2 months, disabled, or blind you will be asked if you want to apply for Supplemental Security Income for them
  • If you have ever been a payee or representative for someone else’s benefits
  • If you have ever been convicted of a felony
See Also  How To Apply For Social Security Disability [Step-By-Step Process]

What Documents Do I Need To Submit For Survivors Benefits

Widows/Widowers 

Generally, to apply for Survivors Benefits you will need to submit the following documentation:

  1. Birth certificate or proof of birth 
  2. Death certificate of the deceased worker
  3. Proof of your U.S. citizenship or proof of lawful alien status
  4. Marriage Certificate 
  5. Documents showing the deceased workers military discharge
  6. Documents showing the deceased persons income and taxes (W-2 or self-employment tax return)
  7. If applying for divorced spouse Survival Benefits you need to provide a final divorce decree

Mother Or Fathers Benefits (Caring For Child)

If you are applying for survivors benefits as someone caring for the deceased workers child you will need to provide the following documents to Social Security:

  1. Birth certificate or proof of birth 
  2. Death certificate of the deceased worker
  3. Proof of your U.S. citizenship or proof of lawful alien status
  4. Marriage Certificate 
  5. Documents showing the deceased workers military discharge
  6. Documents showing the deceased persons income and taxes (W-2 or self-employment tax return)
  7. If applying for divorced spouse Survival Benefits you need to provide final divorce decree
  8. Childs Birth Certificate
  9. If the child was adopted you will need to provide proof of adoption as well. 

Dependent Parent Over 62

To apply as a dependent parent that was receiving more than half of their support from the deceased worker you need to provide the follwoing:

  1. Birth certificate or proof of birth 
  2. Death certificate of the deceased worker
  3. Proof of your U.S. citizenship or proof of lawful alien status
  4. U.S. military discharge papers if you served before 1968
  5. Documents showing your income in the last year and taxes (W-2 or self-employment tax return)
  6. A death certificate for the deceased worker

Can I Apply Online, By Phone, Or In Person

You cannot report a death online. You cannot apply for Children’s Benefits online and you cannot apply for Survivors Benefits online. 

Usually, the funeral home reports a death to the SSA. You need to provide the funeral home with the deceased person’s SSN.

If you need to report a death or apply for benefits call Social Securities national toll-free number at 1-800-772-1213 or (TTY 1-800-325-0778). You could also visit your local Social Security office. Find your nearest office here.

You can set up an appointment to go into the Social Security office and apply for your benefits. 

Avoid Phone Scammers 

Please be careful when taking ANY phone call about your Social Security benefits!!! Unfortunately, there are quite a few scams related to Social Security numbers. A Social Security officer will NEVER threaten you or say you will go to jail if you do not give them your personal information. 

If you receive a phone call where someone says “there is a charge against you, you will go to jail if you do not pay money or give us your information” that is a scam! Hang up!  

What Applications Do I Have To Fill Out 

If you or your spouse were already receiving benefits you may not need to fill out an application. IN that case, you would provide the Social Security Administration with the documents mentioned and answer their questions. 

See Also  How To Check Application Status Of An Appeal [Step-By-Step Process]

If you need to fill out a form and you are a widow, widower, or divorced spouse, you will fill out form SSA-10 Information You Need To Apply For Widow’s, Widower’s, or Surviving Divorced Spouse’s Benefits. 

You can find the form in this list on SSA’s website. 

If you are a child applying for Child Survivors Benefits you need to fill out form SSA-4-BK Information You Need To Apply For Child Benefits. View the form on SSA’s website here.

If you are a disabled child you need to fill out the SSA-4 form. Read more about applying for Disabled Childs Survivors Benefits here.

If you are an Adult applying for Disabled Child Benefits you need to fill out the SSA-3368 Adult Disability Report and SSA-827 Authorization to Disclose Information to the Social Security Administration.

Is It Difficult To Be Approved For Survivors Benefits

Survivors Benefits are not usually too difficult to qualify for and receive. The application process required a lot of details and information about you and the deceased person. 

If you provide all the information you have, fill out the form accurately, and are honest with the SSA you should have any problems. 

If you are convicted of the homicide of the deceased worker you would not receive benefits or if you are a minor with a conviction of intentionally causing your parents death you could be denied Child Survivors Benefits. 

How Much Would I Recieve For Survivors Benefits

Survivors Benefits are calculated based on the earning of the person who died. The more income they had and the more they paid into Social Security the higher your benefits will be. 

It is based on a percentage of the deceased’s minimum Social Security benefits, your age, and the benefits you are eligible to get.

Widower or widows at full retirement age or older should receive 100% of the deceased spouse’s benefits. From age 60 to full retirement age would receive 71.5-99%.

Disabled widows or widowers 50-59 years old would receive 71.5%.

Widows or widowers caring for the deceased’s child would receive 16-75%.

Any child under the age of 18 or 19 and still in school full time, or disabled would receive 75%.

Dependent parent(s)  older than 62 would receive 82.1% for 1 parent and 75% each parent for 2 parents. 

What Is The Maximum Family Amount

The amount a family can receive is limited. There is a cap on the percentage of the deceased worker’s Social Security that the family can collect. 

The limit can vary a little but generally, it is between 150% to 180% of the worker’s basic Social Security Benefits rate. 

To read more about specific qualifications or factors that could make you ineligible click here.

How Long Does The Application Process Take and When Will I Get My First Check

It will usually take 30-60 days for you to start receiving your payment. Once the SSA has received your application and approved it they should process and send out your check shortly afterward. 

If you do not hear anything back from the SSA or receive your approval you can check your application status by calling your local Social Security office. 

When Would My Survivors Benefits End 

If you are a widow or widower your benefits should last for life. 

If you receive Mother or Fathers Survivor Benefits those benefits would end if:

  1. You no longer care for a child under 16 or disabled 
  2. You remarry. Exceptions do exist if you remarry someone who also receives specific Social Security Benefits. 
  3. You become entitled to widowers or widows Survivors Benefits
  4. You become entitled to Retirement Benefits that are larger than your Survivors Benefits

If you receive child Survivors Benefits those benefits would end when you turn 18. If you are studying full time, your benefits could continue to 19 years and 2 months old. Child benefits also apply to step-children, grandchildren, and step-grandchildren. 

If you get married that would end your child’s survivors benefits in most cases. 

If you receive dependent parent Survivors Benefits, these benefits are paid for life unless the parent remarries or if you start receiving Retirement Benefits that are larger than the Survivors Benefits.

I hope the information in this article was helpful for you. If you have any questions or comments leave them in the comments section below.