Dealing with the death of a loved one is always challenging on an emotional level. It can also be difficult financially. On the other hand, many may also realize they might qualify for survivor benefits from Social Security. However, the exact amount you qualify to receive will depend on various aspects, including the nature of your relationship to the decedent. 

Additionally, how much benefits the deceased received from Social Security while he or she was alive can also make a difference as to how much survivor benefits you will ultimately obtain. How much your deceased loved one earned while living will also play a role in calculating survivor benefits from Social Security. The more he or she earns while living, the more benefits will be available for survivors. 


If the decedent is your spouse, you will qualify for the entire amount of your deceased spouse’s unused Social Security benefits. However, if you are not yet at full retirement age by the time you start receiving benefits from Social Security the survivor benefits available will be lower. The earlier you receive benefits before retirement age, the less survivor benefits you will have. 

For instance, you will qualify for between 71.5% and 99% of your deceased spouse’s unused benefits if you are between the ages of 60 and the full retirement age. If you are between 50 and 59 years old, you are eligible for 71.5%. 

If you are disabled, you will be able to obtain 71.5% regardless of your age. Also, if you are a caretaker for a minor child under the age of 16, regardless of your age, you are eligible for 75%. 


In the case that the decedent is your former spouse, you will qualify for the same amounts as a widow in regard to Social Security survivor benefits. 


When your parent dies you will be eligible for 75% of leftover benefits as long as you are under the age of 18. One exception to this would be if you were 19 years of age and are still attending primary or secondary school. In this case you would still qualify for survivor benefits. Another exception to the age limit would be if you are disabled. 


If your child is the decedent and you are dependent on your adult child, you will qualify for 82.5% of unused Social Security benefits. In the case of two dependent parents, each parent will be qualified for 75% of benefits. 

The application process 

There are several steps and formalities you will have to go through when applying for survivor benefits from Social Security. You will have several forms you will need to complete. Also, it is possible the Social Security Administration will request to personally interview you. 

Plan to maximize your survivor benefits 

Like all other changes in personal finance, it is a good idea to have a plan on how to deal with receiving survivor benefits. You will want to integrate your survivor benefits into your overall personal financial planning. A wealth management specialist will be able to help you do this or can even assist you in creating a financial plan if you do not have one already in place.


Every investor’s situation is unique and you should consider your investment goals, risk tolerance and time horizon before making any investmentPrior to making an investment decision, please consult with your financial advisor about your individual situation.  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.