Surviving Spouse & Children

Surviving Spouse & Children

FSM Social Security Survivors’ benefits are benefits that can be paid to the family of a deceased worker. Survivor’s benefits can ease the financial burden that sometimes follows a worker’s death by providing the family with continuing cash income. It is an income that may mean the family can stay together, that children can stay together, that children will be able to continue their education, that permanently disabled children can receive a lifetime income.

Who is eligible for this type of benefit?

  • the spouse of an individual who died fully insured with at least $2,500 in contributions
  • a child of an individual who died fully insured or currently insured with at least $2,500 in contributions

Note: If the contributions of the deceased individual is less than $2,500, the survivors can pay the difference in a one-time payment to earn right to the benefit.

What is fully and currently insured?

  • Fully insured means that a person’s cumulative quarters of coverage is at least as great as the number of years calculated from the later of the date the worker turned age twenty one (21) or June 30, 1968, to the date the worker attains age sixty (60), becomes disabled or dies. Partial years shall be counted as whole years. For example, 37.25 years would be rounded up to 38 years. In any case, a person cannot be fully insured if he or she has less than 12 quarters.
  • Public Law 15-73: Any individual who passes away on January 1, 2010 and after must have earned at least 50 quarters of coverage and at least $2,500 in contributions to be considered fully insured.
  • Currently insured means an individual has at least 20 quarters in the 25-quarter period ending with the quarter in which a) he retires; a) he becomes disabled; or c) he dies, whichever occurs first.

What is the amount of the benefit for spouse and child(ren)?

The surviving spouse of a fully insured worker eligible shall be paid a monthly benefit or disability in an amount equal to sixty percent (60%) of the retirement or disability insurance benefit calculated for the deceased spouse at the date of death while each surviving child shall be entitled to fifteen percent (15%). If the surviving spouse is receiving his or her share, the children (3 or more) together shall be entitled to forty percent (40%). The only time when the children can receive hundred percent (100%) of the deceased wage earner’s retirement is if the surviving spouse is either deceased or parents are divorce and no payment was ever made to a surviving spouse. When this happens, each child will be entitled to 15% up to the maximum of 7 children or 100% of the deceased wage earner’s retirement benefits.

The total survivor’s benefit paid to the spouse and the children may not exceed the retirement benefit calculated for the decedent as of the date of death, except that if the surviving spouse receives benefits based on his or her own employment coverage, that amount plus the survivors’ benefits for the children may exceed the amount of the deceased retirement benefit. In no event shall the amount paid be less than the minimum established by Social Security Administration.


The surviving spouse of an individual who died fully insured, if such spouse has filed application, shall be entitled to a survivor insurance benefit for each month beginning with the month of death of the fully insured spouse and ending with the month preceding the month in which the surviving spouse dies or remarries; provided that such benefit shall be subject to the earning test.

If the spouse of the deceased insured worker is eligible for retirement or disability benefits based on his or her own employment coverage, and is also eligible for surviving spouse benefits, the spouse shall receive whatever benefit pays the largest monthly payment. The surviving spouse cannot receive both benefits.


Children eligible for benefits shall include only the deceased individual’s biological children and such adopted children whose confirmed petition for adoption by the wage earner has been presented to the Social Security Administration. Every surviving child who fulfills the foregoing and who is dependent upon an individual entitled to old age benefits who was dependent upon an individual who died fully insured or currently insured, shall be entitled, upon filing application, to a child’s insurance benefit for each month beginning with the month of death of such individual and ending with the month preceding whichever of the following first occurs:

1. attainment of age eighteen years, except that benefits are payable until the month before the attainment of twenty-two so long as the beneficiary is a bona fide student, and except that benefits are payable during the disability of a child who was disabled before the attainment of age twenty-two;

2. marriage;

3. adoption.

A child shall be deemed dependent upon his or her parent or adopting parent unless such individual was not living in the same household with or contributing to the support of the child. Child’s insurance benefits shall be paid to the individual upon whom the child is currently dependent, except such benefit shall be subject to the earning test.

What are the documents required when applying?

1. proof of marriage and proof of your age;

2. proof of worker’s death – death certificate;

3. Children’s birth certificates, if they are natural children of the decedent;

4. proof of full time school attendance for children age 18-22: School Certification form provided by Social Security.

5. proof of children’s dependency or adoption, if they are applying as dependent or adopted children of the decedent. It is a requirement to at least provide two different types of dependency documents to the Administration.

Note: Customary adoption or Court order for adoption must be petitioned and signed by the wage earner.

Surviving Spouse proof of marriage:

1.A ceremonial marriage may be proven by any of the following:

  • certified copy of the public record of marriage;
  • certified copy of the church record of marriage;
  • marriage Certificate;
  • signed statement by clergyman or public official who performed the marriage ceremony;
  • other evidence of possible value.
2. proof of worker’s death – death certificate;

  • from husband and wife if living together and another statement from two – blood relatives;
  • if either husband or wife is dead, a statement from the surviving spouse and a statement from two blood relatives of the deceased.
  • living under the same household or known to the community.
3. Children’s birth certificates, if they are natural children of the decedent;

  • a court degree;
  • statement from a recognized leader familiar with local and traditional custom;
  • statements from both husband and wife if still living.

Proof of child(ren)’s relationship to the deceased:

1. If the decedent is a natural parent

2. Step relationship must be proved first by establishing the relationship between the child and the natural parent and then proof of marriage between the natural parent and the stepparent.

  • Birth Certificate needs to be provided; or
  • Baptismal Certificate.

You should notify Social Security immediately if any of the following occurs:

Surviving spouse:

1. Returns to work – earning test applied;

2. Remarries (benefits will stop permanently);

3. No longer provides for care and custody of children on whose behalf he/she receives benefits.

Surviving children:

1. Death of a child;

2. Reaches age 18 and is not a full – time student;

3. Marries;

4. Works – earning test is applied;

5. Is adopted

6. The child is no longer under the custody of the parent, or guardian;

7. Recovers from disability after age 21.

If you require additional information regarding the survivor’s application process, please contact your nearest FSMSS Branch Offices.