How to Collect Social Security Survivor Benefits after Wrongful Death
It's devastating for a family to suddenly lose a loved one. Learning a sudden death is attributable to another's negligence can make it especially painful. There could be compensation recoverable through a wrongful death claim or Social Security survivor benefits.
Determine who in your family can collect ongoing death benefits.Spouses, children and sometimes dependent parents may qualify for these benefits. If your loved one worked and paid Social Security taxes, credit went toward survivor insurance.
There are two types of benefits that could be payable. One type is monthly survivor benefits. In some cases widows or widowers receive them at retirement age. But for others (such as a spouse taking care of children younger than 16 or disabled who are receiving Social Security benefits), they are available at any age. Divorced widows or widowers might also be entitled to these benefits.
Unmarried children under the age of 18 (or up to 19 years old if attending school fulltime) could also receive benefits. Those disabled before the age of 22 and who remain disabled could be entitled to benefits at any age. In certain circumstances adopted children, stepchildren and grandchildren may also be eligible.
Dependent parents might be eligible for these benefits if the deceased provided for at least half their support. The parents must be at least 62 years old to qualify.
Apply for the ongoing death benefits.The first step is to gather all of the documents necessary to apply. These must be originals or copies certified by the issuing agency.
The following documents are necessary to apply for Social Security Survivor Benefits:
- proof of death (death certificate, document from funeral home);
- Social Security numbers (applicant, deceased, dependent children);
- birth certificates (applicant, dependent children);
- marriage certificate (if a widow or widower);
- divorce papers (when applying as divorced widow or widower);
- deceased's W-2 forms or federal self-employment tax return (most current year); and
- name of bank and account number.
The second step is to apply, either at a local Social Security office or over the telephone. It's important to do this as soon as possible because benefits aren't retroactive. They are payable from the time of the application.
Apply for the one-time death payment.The other type of benefit is a one-time death payment of $255. It is only made to the spouse or child if they meet certain requirements and the deceased earned enough credits. The beneficiary or his or her representative should contact Social Security as soon as possible to ensure you receive the death payment in a timely manner. Many funeral directors will be happy to make this call for you.