Social Security survivors benefits vary with each individual situation. Generally, widows, divorced widows children, and dependent parents can get monetary benefits. The exact dollar amount of the benefit will depend on the income of the deceased and the age of the survivors.
There are a variety of people who qualify for Social Security survivors benefits. If a widow has reached the age of 65 at the time of her spouse's death, she is entitled to the full benefits, while there are reduced benefits for those age 60, or 50 if disabled. A widow can receive benefits at any age if she is caring for the deceased's child under the age of 16.
Unmarried children -- sometimes even stepchildren -- grandchildren or adopted children under 18 are also qualified for benefits as are disabled children of any age if they were disabled before the age of 22. The deceased's parents can also qualify for Social Security survivors benefits if the deceased provided at least 50% of the parent's support.
Divorced spouses are also able to collect Social Security survivors benefits if they are over the age of 60 and were married to the deceased for at least 10 years. If they are caring for the deceased's child under the age of 16, they are entitled to full benefits just as a current spouse would be. The divorcee may be remarried, as long as the marriage occurred after their 60th birthday.
The exact amount of benefit depends on the average lifetime earnings of the deceased and the number of years they were employed. Anyone aged 25 years or older receives a Social Security Statement every year that gives this information. Basically, the more a person earned and the longer they were employed, the greater the survivor benefits. Sometimes a one time payment of $225 is made to the spouse or minor children. Credits are earned for this benefit just as with other Social Security survivors' benefits.
A few basic percentages can give an idea of what survivors can expect to receive based on the statement of the deceased's earned benefits. A widow at retirement age, which is 65 to 67 years old depending on birth year, gets 100% of the benefit amount. A widow 60 and older receives 71-99% of the benefit, a number that can be reduced if they have significant personal income. A widow of any age caring for the deceased's child under 16 receives 75%, while the children receive 75%. The maximum benefits paid out to all family members cannot exceed a particular amount, generally between 150% and 180% of the deceased's benefit.
Those wishing to claim their Social Security survivors benefits should file paperwork as quickly as possible after the death. Benefits are paid from the time of application, not from the time of death. Applications are made over the phone or at any Social Security office.