Survivors Benefits: How to Apply for Benefits When a Relative Dies

By Disability Group

Although coping with the death of a relative is difficult, Social Security Administration allows for eligible family members to receive the due benefits of the deceased through applying for Survivors Benefits. It is beneficial to apply for Survivor’s Benefits sooner, rather than later, as benefits will ultimately be paid from the time the application was processed, not from the time the beneficiary died. For instance, if the worker died in April of 2010, but the eligible family members did not apply for Survivors benefits until June of 2010, then they will only receive benefits going back to June of 2010 and will lose the benefits for April and May.

Who is eligible for Survivors Benefits?

If the deceased has worked long enough or at least one and one-half of the last three years before death, then benefits can be paid to eligible family members, such as widows and widowers, divorced widows and widowers, and dependent children.

Widows and widowers are eligible to receive full survivors benefits after they have reached the survivors retirement age of 66, or unless they are disabled, in which case they can receive benefits from the age of 50.  The surviving spouse, or divorced spouse, however, can still be eligible for benefits at any age if he or she is caring for a dependent child who is under 16 or disabled.

Other than the widows and widowers, the deceased worker’s children are also eligible for Survivors Benefits if the child is unmarried and under 18 years of age; if the child became disabled before the age of 22; or if the child is aged 18 to 19 and is still attending elementary or secondary school full-time.

Lastly, the parents of a deceased worker are also eligible for Survivors Benefits if they are over the age of 62 and can prove dependency status.

Applying for Survivors Benefits:

Before calling SSA to file for Survivor’s Benefits, it is important to have the following documents available:

  • Worker’s death certificate
  • Survivor’s birth certificate
  • Marriage certificate (if the person applying is a widow or widower)
  • Social security numbers of dependent children (if worker was caring for the children)
  • Deceased worker’s most recent W-2 forms or self-employment tax returns.

Once these documents have been obtained, it is important to contact the claimant’s local SSA office and file a Survivors Benefits claim with one of the representatives at that office.