Most people when they think of Social Security, they think of an agency which provides benefits to people during their retirement years or to those who are disabled. However, Social Security can also help your survivors financially after you have passed away. If you qualify for retirement benefits from Social Security some of your survivors may also qualify to receive survivor benefits. 

Who qualifies for survivor benefits from Social Security? 

Of course, like just about every other government program there are certain requirements your beneficiaries will need to fulfill in order to be eligible for Social Security survivor benefits. Those that may be eligible include your spouse, your children, your grandchildren, your parents, and your former spouse. However, each of these potential beneficiaries of survivor benefits will have to meet specific requirements to be eligible. 

Your spouse 

Your spouse may be able to obtain survivor benefits if he or she has not remarried. Also, your spouse would usually have to be at least 60 years old to start receiving survivor benefits. However, if your spouse is disabled, he or she would be able to begin receiving payments from Social Security beginning at age 50. 

On the other hand, your widow can receive Social Security survivor benefits at any age if he or she will be caring for your child or children who are under 16 years of age. Or, if your child or children are older than 16 years of age but are disabled, your widow would still be able to obtain survivor benefits. 

Your children and grandchildren 

If your children are unmarried at the time of your passing away, they may qualify to receive survivor benefits from Social Security. Usually, your children would have to be under 18-years-old to qualify, however they can be as old as 19 years of age as long as they are a full-time student in high school. In fact, they can be any age over 18 if they are disabled, as long as they had become disabled prior to reaching the age of 22. 

Your stepchild, adopted child, grandchild and step grandchild may also be eligible to receive Social Security survivor benefits under specific circumstances. A financial planning advisor will be able to help you figure out if your situation is applicable. 


If your parents are over 62 years old and are dependent on you for half of their income, they may be eligible for survivor benefits from Social Security. However, there are certain limits that apply, so you may want to check with a financial advisor service. 

Former spouse 

If you are divorced, your former spouse may also be able to obtain survivor benefits if they meet certain requirements. 

Integrating survivor benefits into your estate planning 

Survivor benefits from Social Security are just one item you need to take into consideration when planning your estate. Consulting a wealth management professional can help you to properly integrate survivor benefits with the rest of your estate plan. 

The foregoing information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee that it is accurate or complete, it is not a statement of all available data necessary for making an investment decision, and it does not constitute a recommendation.  Any opinions are those of the author and not necessarily those of Raymond James.  Expressions of opinion are as of this date and are subject to change without notice.  There is no guarantee that these statements, opinions or forecasts provided herein will prove to be correct.  Raymond James and its advisors do not offer tax or legal advice.  You should discuss any tax or legal matters with the appropriate professional.