Pension Survivor Benefits Are Part of Overall Social Security Benefits
The Social Security Administration (SSA) is there to help you when a family member dies. Certain family members may receive benefits if the deceased person worked long enough to contribute to the SSA system.
The SSA has these benefits in place to help with the impact of losing the family wage earner. They pay most of these benefits to children. As the wage earner paid Social Security tax over time, they earned credits toward receiving SSA benefits, based on age and the number of years of work. Typically, workers are eligible for SSA benefits after 10 years of work.
The deceased person’s spouse can receive full benefits at age 66 or older, depending on the year you were born. As early as age 60, the spouse can receive partial benefits, but if the spouse is taking care of any children under age 16 or children of any age who are disabled, spouses can receive benefits right away.
Typically, the funeral home will report the death to the SSA. In order for them to do this, you will need to provide the SSN to the funeral home so that they can provide the report. The SSA will need to know about the death as soon as possible.
After the death is reported, you will need to contact SSA to determine if your family members qualify. There is a benefit for the surviving spouse if that person was living with the deceased. Children can also receive these benefits if they are full-time students under age 19. If an older child had a disability before age 22, that child will also qualify, as do adopted children, stepchildren and grandchildren under certain circumstances. If the deceased had parents who were dependent on him or her, the parents may qualify for these benefits.
One key factor is that when the person dies, the Social Security benefits they were receiving can no longer be collected. You must return the benefits to the SSA. For example, if the SSA benefits were done by direct deposit, you can direct the bank to return the benefits the same month or the next month after death. If you receive a physical check, don’t cash them for the month the person dies or any later months. It is okay to cash them for the month or months prior to the death.
SSA does not allow online application for survivors’ benefits. Instead, you must call your local SSA office to arrange a meeting. Most SSA offices are open from 7am to 7pm Monday through Friday.