Social Security survivors benefits help ease the financial burden that follows a worker's death. Nearly all children under the age of 18 will get monthly benefits if a working parent dies. Other family members may be eligible for benefits, too. Anyone who has worked and paid Social Security (FICA) taxes has been earning survivors benefits for his or her family. The amount of work needed to pay survivors benefits depends on the worker's age at the time of death. It may be as little as 1.5 years for a young worker and is never more than than 10 years.


  • Widows and widowers age 60 or older
  • Widows and widowers at any age if caring for the deceased's children who are under age 16 or disabled
  • Divorced wives and husbands age 60 or older, if married to the deceased 10 years or more
  • Widows, widowers, divorced wives, and divorced husbands age 50 or older, if they are disabled
  • Children up to age 18
  • Children age 18 - 19, if they attend elementary school or high school full time
  • Children over age 18, if they became disabled before age 22
  • The deceased worker's parents age 62 or older, if they were being supported by the worker

In addition to the monthly benefits for family members, a one-time payment of $255 can be paid to a spouse who was living with the worker at the time of death. If there is none, it can be paid to either a spouse who is eligible for benefits or a child or children who are eligible for benefits. This payment can not be made if there is no eligible spouse or child.

You can apply for benefits by telephone or by going to any Social Security office. You may need some of the documents shown on the list below. If you don't have all of the information required, you are encouraged to begin the process anyway. The Social Security office can often assist in obtaining any missing information.


  • Your Social Security number and the deceased worker's Social Security number
  • A death certificate
  • Proof of the deceased worker's earnings for last year (W-2 forms or self-employment tax return)
  • Your birth certificate
  • A marriage certificate, if you are applying for benefits as a widow, widower, divorced wife, or divorced husband
  • A divorce decree, if you are applying for benefits as a divorced wife or husband
  • Children's birth certificates and Social Security numbers, if applying for children's benefits
  • Your checking or savings account information, if you want direct deposit of your benefits

You will need to submit original documents or copies certified by the issuing office. You can mail them or bring them to the office. Social Security will make photocopies and return your documents.

You may contact the Social Security office to find out what benefits are available for your individual circumstances, to change records and to stop automatic deposits. Our local Social Security office contact information is:

2429 Northgate Street, Suite A; Ottumwa, Iowa 52501
Phone: 1-866-964-7394
Office Hours: MONDAY - FRIDAY:09:00 AM - 03:30 PM

The national phone number is 1-800-772-1213. For more information, write or visit any Social Security office or phone the toll-free number. You can speak to a representative weekdays between 9:30am and 3:30pm.

Tharp Funeral Home & Crematory will file Form SSA-721 which informs Social Security of a death. You need not order a certified copy of the death certificate to send to your Social Security Administration office.