As you move through your working career you pay into the Social Security benefits system. You can then begin to draw on these benefits if you are faced with a permanent disability or decide to retire. If you become deceased these benefits don't just disappear. Those benefits, called survivor benefits, will be passed on to your surviving family members.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) can survivors benefits to qualified family members. Your family member must have worked for at least 10 years. During that time they must also have paid the Social Security taxes, earning them work credits on their Social Security accounts. The Social Security Administration will use the number of credits earned by your family member along with your age to determine benefits at the time of your death. Individuals will need 40 credits to be completely insured. However, this number only fits into part of the equation. There are exceptions and if you start drawing on your benefits not long before your death, your family members may be entitled to survivor benefits.
To be eligible to receive survivor benefits, you must be the widow or widower, unmarried children under the age of 18 or dependent parents over the age of 62. If you are a divorced spouse over the age of 60, you are eligible to receive survivor benefits as long you had been married for at least 10 years.
You can apply for survivor either by telephone or at your local Social Security office. Be sure to have the following information handy when applying:
- Proof of death
- Deceased Workers’ SSN
- Your SSN
- Your Birth Certificate
- Divorce Papers (if necessary)
- Dependent Children’s SSN (if applicable)
- Deceased Worker’s W2
- Your Bank Account Information