How much your family would receive in benefits depends on your average lifetime earnings. The higher your earnings were, the higher their benefits would be. We calculate a basic amount as if you had reached full retirement age at the time you die.

Note: If you are already receiving reduced benefits when you die, survivor benefits are based on that amount.

The maximum survivors benefit amount is limited to what you would receive if you were still alive.

These are examples of monthly benefit payments:

  • Widow or widower, full retirement age or older --100 percent of your benefit amount;
  • Widow or widower, age 60 to full retirement age -- 71½ to 99 percent of your basic amount;
  • Disabled widow or widower, age 50 through 59 -- 71½ percent;
  • Widow or widower, any age, caring for a child under age 16 -- 75 percent.
  • A child under age 18 (19 if still in elementary or secondary school) or disabled -- 75 percent.
  • Your dependent parent(s), age 62 or older:
    • One surviving parent -- 82½ percent.
    • Two surviving parents -- 75 percent to each parent.

Percentages for a surviving divorced spouse would be the same as above.

There also may be a special lump-sum death payment.

Maximum Family Amount

There's a limit to the amount that family members can receive each month. The limit varies, but it is generally equal to about 150 to 180 percent of the basic benefit rate.

If the sum of the benefits payable to family members is greater than this limit, the benefits will be reduced proportionately. (Any benefits paid to a surviving divorced spouse based on disability or age won't count toward this maximum amount.)

Get your Social Security Statement online or check our Benefit Calculators for an estimate of the benefits your family could receive if you died right now.

Other Things You Need To Know

  • There are limits on how much survivors may earn while they receive benefits.

  • Benefits for a widow, widower or surviving divorced spouse may be affected by several additional factors:

    If he or she remarries

    If your widow, widower or surviving divorced spouse remarries before he or she reaches age 60 (age 50 if disabled), they cannot receive benefits as a surviving spouse while he or she is married.

    If your widow, widower or surviving divorced spouse remarries after he or she reaches age 60 (age 50 if disabled), he or she will continue to qualify for benefits on your Social Security record.

    However, if their current spouse is a Social Security beneficiary, he or she may want to apply for spouse's benefits on his or her record. If that amount is more than the widow's or widower's benefit on your record, they will receive a combination of benefits that equals the higher amount.

    If he or she is eligible for retirement benefits on their own record

    If your widow, widower or surviving divorced spouse receives benefits on your record, he or she can switch to their own retirement benefit as early as age 62. This assumes he or she is eligible for retirement benefits and his or her retirement rate is higher than their rate as a widow, widower or surviving divorced spouse.

    In many cases, a widow or widower can begin receiving one benefit at a reduced rate and then, at full retirement age, switch to the other benefit at an unreduced rate.

    Reminder: Full retirement age for retirement benefits may not match full retirement age for survivors benefits.

    If he or she will also receive a pension based on work not covered by Social Security

    If your widow, widower or surviving divorced spouse will also receive a pension based on work not covered by Social Security, such as government or foreign work, his or her Social Security benefits as a survivor may be affected.

Select one of the links below to get additional information about