What Social Security benefits are available to survivors?

Benefits are available to surviving spouses, but they are subject to various qualifications and limitations. 

After a one-time payment of $255 payable to the surviving spouse (if they were living with the deceased, or if living apart, was receiving certain Social Security benefits on the deceased's record), the following may be eligible for monthly benefits: 

  • Survivors aged 60 and above, or disabled and above 50
  • Surviving divorced spouses, under certain circumstances
  • Survivors of any age caring for the deceased's child (<16) and receiving benefits on the deceased's record 
  • An unmarried child of the deceased (<18) or above 18 with certain disability requirements

Be aware these are "surface" considerations. Other dynamics such as marital status, or the receipt of a pension based on work not covered by Social Security, can have an impact on survivor benefits. 

Tip: Social Security Timing can help you quickly calculate survivor benefits. Enter the figures from this sample case into the corresponding inputs in Social Security Timing and click see results to see this feature in action. 

Young Surviving Spouses with Children Under Age 18

Typically, a surviving spouse under the age 60 wouldn’t qualify for a survivor benefit unless they were disabled. A surviving spouse and child in this scenario might qualify for a mother’s/father’s benefit and a child’s benefit if they meet the entitlement requirements listed below.

 Mother/Father Benefits

  • Be the surviving spouse of number holder (NH) who died fully or currently insured
  • Not married
  • Have filed an application for mother’s or father’s benefits
  • Not be entitled to survivor benefits
  • Not be entitled to retirement insurance benefits equal to or exceeding the amount of the unadjusted mother’s/father’s benefit
  • Have in-care a child of the deceased NH entitled to a child’s insurance benefit.

Child’s Benefits

  • A proper applicant of the child must file an application
  • Must be the child of the NH entitled or to a RIB or DIB or who died fully or currently insured
  • Dependent upon the NH
  • Unmarried
  • Under age 18 or if 18 or over be disabled that began before age 22 or a full-time elementary or secondary school student under age 19

Both the child’s benefit and the mother’s/father’s benefit qualify for 75% of the deceased spouses primary insurance amount assuming the deceased spouse was entitled to a retirement benefit or was fully insured.  Both benefits would be subject to the family maximum, which limits the amount of monthly benefits payable on one record. The family maximum ranges from 150-188 percent of the deceased number holders primary insurance amount.

For instance, if the deceased number holder had a PIA of $2,400, then the family maximum would be calculated as follows, assuming the number holder turned 62 or died in 2023.


Family Maximum Formula for 2024.

  • 150 percent of the first $1,500 of the worker’s PIA, plus
  • 272 percent of the worker’s PIA over $1,500 through $2,166, plus
  • 134 percent of the worker’s PIA over $2,166 through $2,825, plus
  • 175 percent of the worker’s PIA over $2,825.

Family Maximum Calculation

  • $1,500 * 1.5 = $2,137.50
  • ($2,166 - $1,500) * 2.72 = $1,811.52
  • ($2,400 - $2,166) * 1.34 =  $313.56
  • Not Applicable as client's PIA is less than $2,682.

Only complete tiers where the deceased PIA is greater than the tiers threshold.

Family Maximum = $2,137.50 + $1,811.52 + $313.56 = $4,262.58

Note: Social Security Timing does not currently calculate children’s benefits or  benefits for a surviving spouse under age 60.