Social Security payments are distributed on the third day of every month as payment for the prior month.  Therefore, a Social Security recipient must have lived the entire month to be entitled to the payment.  If the recipient dies on July 26, the payment received on August 3 will have to be returned, as the recipient was not alive for the entire month of July.

When a Social Security recipient passes away you need to let Social Security know as soon as possible.  The funeral director will typically report the person’s death to the appropriate authorities so you will need to give them the deceased’s Social Security number.

Who Can Receive Monthly Survivor Benefits?

Eligible family members may be able to receive monthly benefits.  Possible eligible family members include:

Widow or Widower

The widow or widower of the deceased can receive full benefits at the full retirement age or reduced benefits beginning at age 60.  If he or she is disabled they can start receiving benefits at the age of 50. If he or she has not remarried and is taking care of the deceased’s child who is younger than 16 or disabled then they may receive the benefits at any age.

Divorced Spouse

A divorced spouse of the deceased may receive benefits the same as a widow or widower, as long as the marriage lasted at least 10 years.  Remarrying after the age of 60 will not affect their eligibility for survivors’ benefits.  If he or she is caring for a child younger than 16 or a child who is disabled, is a biological or adopted child of your former spouse, and receives benefits on the record of your former spouse, then the length of marriage rule no longer applies.

Minor or Disabled Child

An unmarried child under the age of 18, or under the age of 19 of he or she is attending secondary school full time, of the deceased worker is eligible to receive survivor’s benefits from Social Security.  If the child was disabled before they turned 22 and are still disabled, then the child is eligible for benefits at any age.


Parents who are at least 62 years old and were dependent on the deceased may be eligible to receive survivor’s benefits from Social Security.  The parent must have been receiving at least half of their income from the deceased.  They also need to be ineligible to receive a retirement benefit elsewhere that would be higher than the amount paid from Social Security survivor’s benefits. Typically, you remain eligible for the benefits unless you remarry (although there are exceptions to this rule). Stepparents and adoptive parents who became the parent before the deceased turned 16 may also be eligible.

Survivors Benefit Amount

The amount of survivor’s benefits depends upon the earning level of the deceased. The greater the amount the deceased paid into Social Security, the greater the survivors benefit.  The monthly amount received by the survivor is a percentage of the deceased’s basic Social Security benefits.  The amount varies and depends on the survivor’s age and the type of benefit he or she is eligible for.  There is a limit regarding the amount a survivor may receive each month and that limit varies, depending on the situation.


There are some additional factors that affect the benefits received by a widow, widower, or divorced spouse.

  • If you remarry before the age of 60, you cannot receive benefits.
  • If you remarry after the age of 60 you can receive benefits.

A Lump-Sum Death Payment

A surviving spouse may receive a special lump-sum death payment of $255 providing he or she meets certain requirements.  If the spouse is not eligible then the payment may be given to a child.