Social Security survivor benefits assist in providing financial support in the event of the death of a family wage earner. If the deceased worked, paid Social Security taxes and has accumulated enough work credits to qualify for benefits, widows, widowers, unmarried children and dependent parents can receive benefits based on the late wage earner’s work record. According to the Social Security Administration, 98 of every 100 children can receive benefits if a working parent passes away. Social Security’s life insurance program supplies more benefits to children that any other federal program, according to the agency.
If your mother passed away with enough work credits to qualify for survivor benefits for her family, you may receive a benefit check based on her work record. Normally, the Social Security Administration requires 10 year of work to qualify for benefits. If your mother passed when she was very young, you may qualify for benefits based on her work record if she worked 1 1/2 years during the three years before her death.
Survivor Benefits for Children
To qualify for benefits under your late mother’s work record, you must be under age 18 and unmarried. The agency will extend benefits until the age of 19 if you remain unmarried and are still enrolled full time in an elementary or secondary school. The SSA does not extend benefits to college students. That practice was eliminated with a change in the law that went into effect in 1981. You can expect to receive 75 percent of your mother’s benefit amount if you qualify for benefits under the Social Security Act.
Survivor Benefits for a Spouse
If your mother qualified for Social Security benefits and you are under age 16, the Social Security Administration will pay your father benefits from your mother’s record if he provides for your care. If your father is full retirement age, he will generally receive 100 percent of your mother’s benefit amount. If he qualifies for retirement benefits based on his own record, the agency will pay him the higher monthly benefit, combining benefit amounts if necessary.
Survivor Benefit Limits
Social Security benefits for survivors are limited. Although this limit varies, it is normally between 150 and 180 percent of the deceased's full benefit amount.
Lump-Sum Death Benefit
If your mother worked long enough to qualify for Social Security benefits, a death benefit of $255 is available to one specified family member as of 2011. If your father is still alive, he will receive the benefit if he was living with your mother, or if he was not living with her, was receiving benefits on her record. If your father is not living, and you are eligible for benefits under your mother’s record, the Social Security Administration will pay the benefit to you. Under no circumstances will the agency pay the benefit to a funeral home or to an estate to take care of final expenses.
- Social Security Online; Survivors Benefits; April 2011
- Social Security Online: How Long Must You Work to Qualify for Social Security?
- Social Security Administration. "Social Security History: Fifty Years of Social Security." Accessed Feb. 21, 2020.
- Social Security Administration. "Retirement Benefits," Page 1. Accessed Feb. 21, 2020.
- Social Security Administration. "Retirement Benefits," Page 4. Accessed Feb. 21, 2020.
- Social Security Administration. "Retirement Benefits," Page 7. Accessed Feb. 21, 2020.
- Social Security Administration. "Retirement Benefits," Page 10. Accessed Feb. 21, 2020.
- Social Security Administration. "Retirement Benefits," Page 9. Accessed Feb. 21, 2020.
- Social Security Administration. "Benefit Planner: Survivors, If You Are the Survivor." Accessed Feb. 21, 2020.
- Social Security Administration. "Disability Insurance Trust Fund." Accessed Feb. 21, 2020.
- Social Security Administration. "Disability Benefits," Page 10. Accessed Feb. 21, 2020.
Cheryl Withrow is a writer in Michigan’s untamed Upper Peninsula. Following a teaching career she served alternately as editor of the "Washington County News" and the "Geneva County Reaper," and as associate editor of "Bay Life" magazine. Withrow holds a Bachelor of Science in business with a major in accountancy from Wright State University and a Bachelor of Arts in English from Ohio University.