Social Security Math: How Much Would Your Survivors Get?

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Your family members — including your spouse, children and parents — may receive survivors benefits from the Social Security Administration if you die, as long as you have worked long enough to qualify.

Here’s a look at how these benefits are calculated for survivors who qualify.

Calculating Your Survivors Benefit Amount

The benefit amount your survivors will receive is based on your earnings. The more you paid into Social Security, the higher the survivors benefits would be.

The Social Security Administration provides these examples of the benefit amounts that survivors may receive:

  • Widow or widower, full retirement age or older: 100% of the deceased worker’s benefit amount
  • Widow or widower, age 60 to full retirement age: 71.5% to 99% of the deceased worker’s benefit amount
  • Widow or widower with a disability, ages 50 through 59: 71.5%
  • Widow or widower, any age, caring for a child under age 16: 75%
  • A child under age 18 (age 19 if still in elementary or secondary school) or who has a disability: 75%
  • Dependent parent(s) of the deceased worker, ages 62 or older receive:
    • One surviving parent: 82.5%
    • Two surviving parents: 75% to each parent
  • Percentages for a surviving divorced spouse would be the same as above

Maximum Family Amount

There’s a limit to the amount that family members can receive each month — this is known as the family maximum benefit and is calculated using a specific formula. The limit varies, but it is generally equal to between 150% and 180% of the basic benefit rate.

According to the Social Security Administration, “if the sum of the benefits payable to family members is greater than this limit, the benefits will be reduced proportionately. Any benefits paid to a surviving divorced spouse based on disability or age won’t count toward this maximum amount.”

Special Lump-Sum Death Payment

A surviving spouse or child may receive a special lump-sum death payment of $255 if they meet certain requirements.

Are You Retirement Ready?

For a surviving spouse to qualify, they must meet one of the following to qualify, as of the month of the worker’s death:

  • They were living in the same household as the worker.
  • They were already receiving benefits on the worker’s record.
  • They became eligible for benefits upon the worker’s death.

If there’s no eligible surviving spouse, the lump sum can be paid to the worker’s child or children if, during the month the worker died, the child(ren) met one of the following requirements:

  • They were already receiving benefits on the worker’s record.
  • They became eligible for benefits upon the worker’s death.

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