Who Gets Your Social Security When You Die?


Most of us never see the first 6.2% of our paychecks. That money goes straight to Social Security taxes. If you live long enough and earn the required 40 credits — which translates to 10 years of work — you’ll get a monthly retirement benefit someday.

But who gets your Social Security if you die tomorrow? What happens to all that money you’ve paid into the system?

Who Gets Your Social Security When You Die?

First let’s address a common misconception: Social Security doesn’t set money aside in an account for you. Your payroll taxes fund the Social Security trust. Once you’re eligible, you receive benefits from the trust. But the Social Security Administration doesn’ t have a pot of money with your name on it.

When you die, your Social Security payments will stop. If you die before starting benefits, you won’t get the money you’ve paid in.

But with survivor benefitssomeone else may be able to get Social Security based on your record. They aren’t “taking” your Social Security. They’re simply using your work history to qualify for Social Security benefits. If you have a spouse, an ex- spouse or dependents, they may be able to use your record to qualify for survivor benefits when you die. Here’s who gets what.

If You’ve Never Been Married and Don’t Have Dependents

No one will receive survivor benefits based on your record if you’ve never married and you don’t have children or other dependents. The money you’ve paid in is simply part of the Social Security trust. It will be used to pay Social Security’s other obligations.

If You’re Married

If you were married to your spouse for at least nine months, they’ll be eligible for survivor benefits. They can claim benefits once they turn 60 (or 50 if they’re disabled). If they remarry before they’re eligible, they can’t get survivor benefits while they’re married. However, after age 60 (or 50 if they’re disabled), getting remarried won’t affect…


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