Who is entitled to survivor benefits:
A widow or a widower is entitled to full survivor benefits at the age of 66 (or 67, for people born after 1962). In order to qualify for the benefits, the spouse must have been married to the deceased for at least 9 months prior to death. Divorced spouses are entitled to the same survivor benefits (provided that the marriage lasted for at least 10 years).
An unmarried child is entitled to full survivor benefits until age 18 (or 19, if he is still attending a secondary school full time)
Dependent parents (defined as those whom the deceased supported for at least one half of their total income) are entitled to survivor benefits as well.
How much are survivor benefits:
The amount depends on (1) the earnings of the deceased (2) the age of the recipient spouse and (3) whether or not the recipient spouse continues to work.
The earnings of the deceased: of course, the more the deceased contributed to the Social Security system, the higher the survivor benefit amount will be for all recipients.
If the widow or widower has reached a full retirement age, then he / she will receive 100% of the deceased worker’s benefit amount. If the widow or widower has not reached a full retirement age, then he /she will receive between 71.5% and 99% of the deceased worker’s basic benefit amount.
If the widow / widower continues to work and he / she is below the full retirement age, then the survivor benefits will get reduced. If, on the other hand, the survivor is above the full retirement age, then the benefits do not get reduced, despite the additional income.
Surviving dependent parent is entitled to 82.5% of the deceased worker’s basic benefit amount.
The total amount a family can receive each month is between 150% and 180% of the basic benefit rate.
Disclaimer: This article only offers general information. Each situation is unique. It is always helpful to talk to a specialized attorney, to figure out your various options and ramifications of actions. As every case has subtle differences, please do not use this article for legal advice. Only a signed engagement letter will create an attorney-client relationship.