Social security

Who is entitled to death benefits in social security?

Find out who is entitled to death benefits in Social Security, and how much they are eligible to receive.

3 min read

Surviving divorced spouse

If you are divorced, and the marriage lasted at least 10 years, you can receive benefits on your former spouse’s record. The benefits you receive as a surviving ex-spouse won’t affect the amount of benefits the surviving spouse receives.

If you are a caregiver of the deceased's minor child (under 16), or a child with a disability and receives benefits on the ex-spouse's record, you won't be required to meet the 10 years of marriage rule. The minor child must be a biological or legally adopted child of the deceased worker.

If you remarry after turning 60, you will still be eligible to receive benefits. If you remarry and divorce again, you won’t lose your eligibility for benefits.

Minor/disabled child

If you are an unmarried minor child, you can claim survivor benefits on your parent's record. The definition of a minor child includes a natural child, adopted child, stepchild, grandchild, or step-grandchild.

You must be under 18, or 19 if you are attending elementary or secondary school. A child who became disabled before age 22 and remains the same can receive monthly benefits at any age. A qualifying minor child can receive a maximum of 75% of the deceased parent’s benefit amount.

Your parents

If you are a dependent parent (PDF) of a deceased worker, you may qualify to receive Social Security survivor benefits. You must have been dependent on the deceased for at least half of your support. 

You can claim survivor benefits starting from age 62; the Social Security retirement benefits you qualify to receive on your own record must be lower than the survivor benefits you qualify to receive on the deceased child’s record. You can be the natural parent, step-parent, or adoptive parent- you must have adopted the deceased child before they reached age 16.

If there is one surviving dependent parent, he/she can receive up to 82½% the deceased child’s benefit amount. If there are two surviving dependent parents, each parent is eligible to receive up to 75% of the deceased child’s benefits.

Maximum family benefit

Social Security caps the amount of benefits that family members can receive based on the deceased worker’s benefits. If multiple family members receive survivor benefits, the total benefits are capped at 150% to 180% of the basic benefit rate. If the total family benefit exceeds the Social Security limit, each member’s benefits will be reduced proportionately.    

Lump sum death payment

Social Security pays a one-time death payment of $255 to the deceased worker’s family. If the deceased was living with a spouse, the surviving spouse will receive the one-time payment. If they were living apart, and the spouse was collecting benefits on the deceased spouse’s record, he/she may still receive the lump sum death benefit. However, if there is no surviving spouse, the death payment is paid to a son or daughter of the deceased worker who is eligible for survivor benefits on their deceased parent’s record.