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If you recently had a loved one die, it is possible you may qualify for Social Security survivor benefits. For those who do indeed qualify, it is important to understand how large your survivor benefits could be. This can help with integrating these benefits into your overall financial planning. 

The survivor benefits you receive will depend on what your relationship to the decedent is and how much in Social Security benefits the decedent had received while he or she was living. Another factor is how much the decedent earned while alive. Generally, the more the decedent earned, the more benefits will be available to survivors. However, this amount may be reduced if the decedent began receiving benefits before full retirement age. 


If you are the spouse of the decedent, you may be eligible to receive the entire amount of the decedent’s leftover benefits, assuming you have reached your full retirement age by the time you begin receiving survivor benefits. However, if you decide to receive benefits before retirement age, the benefits will be reduced, depending on how early you decide to receive benefits from Social Security. 

For example, if you are between the ages of 60 years and full retirement age, you will qualify for anywhere from 71.5% to 99% of the leftover benefits from your deceased spouse. If you are disabled or between the ages of 50 and 59, you will qualify for 71.5%. Also, no matter what your age, if you are caring for a child who is under the age of 16 years you will qualify for 75% of the leftover benefits. 

Divorced spouses 

If you are a former spouse of the decedent, then you will qualify for the same percentage of the benefits as a widow. 


In the case that it is your parent who has died, you will qualify for 75% of the leftover benefits as long as you are under the age of 18. However, you can be 19 years of age and still qualify but you will have to be currently attending primary or secondary school. However, no matter what age you are, if you are disabled, you will be able to qualify to receive 75% of survivor benefits after one of your parents has passed away. 


If you are a dependent parent of the deceased, you will qualify for 82.5% of the leftover Social Security benefits. In the case of two dependent parents, each parent will be eligible for 75% of benefits each. 

Applying for survivor benefits from Social Security 

If you believe you may qualify for survivor benefits, it is critical to go through the proper application process with the Social Security Administration. You will probably have to complete a variety of forms, and the Social Security Administration may even want to conduct an interview with you directly. 

What should you do with your benefits? 

Once you know that you do qualify to receive survivor benefits, you will want to make sure to maximize these benefits as best as you can. The best way to do this will be different for everybody depending upon personal financial goals and circumstances. Consulting with an professional on personal finance can help to make things a bit clearer.