What are the requirements for a survivor to receive Social Security benefits?
When a person dies, certain members of the family may be eligible for survivor benefits if the deceased worked, paid Social Security taxes, and earned enough credits. The number of credits a person needs depends on their age at the time of death. The younger a person is, the fewer credits are needed to be eligible for survivor benefits. However, no more than 40 credits (10 years of work) are required to be eligible for any Social Security benefits.
Social Security survivor benefits can be paid to:
•A widow/widower-full benefits at full retirement age (currently age 65), or reduced benefits as early as age 60. A disabled widow/widower may receive benefits as early as age 50.
•A widow/widower at any age if he or she takes care of the deceased`s child under age 16 or disabled, who receives Social Security benefits.
•Unmarried children under 18, or up to age 19 if they are attending elementary or secondary school full time. A child can receive benefits at any age if he or she was disabled before age 22 and remains disabled. Under certain circumstances, benefits can also be paid to stepchildren, grandchildren, or adopted children.
•Dependent parents at 62 or older.
A former spouse can receive benefits under the same circumstances as a widow/widower if the marriage lasted 10 years or more. Benefits paid to a surviving divorced spouse who is 60 or older will not affect the benefit rates for other survivors receiving benefits.
In general, a widow/widower cannot receive benefits if they remarry before the age of 60 (50 if disabled) unless the marriage ends, whether by death, divorce, or annulment. However, remarriage after age 60 (50 if disabled) will not prevent payments on a former spouse`s record.
The amount of the survivor benefit is based on the earnings of the person who died. The more he or she paid into Social Security, the higher the benefits will be. The amount a survivor receives is a percentage of the deceased`s basic Social Security benefit. The following provides the most typical situations and the amount received.
•Widow or widower full retirement age (currently age 65) or older-100 percent.
•Widow or widower age 60 to 64-about 71 - 94 percent.
•Widow or widower at any age with a child under age 16 - 75 percent.
•Children - 75 percent.
If a person is receiving widow/widower`s benefits, they can switch to their own retirement benefits (assuming they are eligible and their retirement rate is higher than the widow/widower`s rate) as early as age 62. In many cases, a widow/widower can begin receiving one benefit at a reduced rate and then switch to the other benefit at an unreduced rate at full retirement age. However, they will not be paid both benefits - they will be paid the higher of the two benefits.
The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.
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- What is the average monthly Social Security benefits for a retired worker?
- How long does a person need to work to become eligible for retirement benefits?
- When should I apply for retirement benefits?
- What is the earliest age that I can begin receiving retirement benefits?
- When will my retirement benefits begin?
- Will my benefit amount be the same for the rest of my life when I start receiving benefits?
- How are my retirement benefits calculated?
- If I receive a government pension, how will this affect my Social Security benefits?
- Will my retirement pension from my job reduce the amount of my Social Security benefit?
- Will I receive more benefits if I delay my retirement?
- What age can I begin receiving full retirement benefits?
- What month do retirement benefits begin?
- What is the definition of Full Retirement Age?
- Can a non-citizen receive Social Security benefits?
- What are the requirements for a husband or wife to receive benefits?
- Can I receive benefits on an ex-spouse`s Social Security record?
- If both my spouse and I are entitled to Social Security benefits, is there any reduction in our payments?
- What are the requirements for a divorced spouse to receive benefits?
- I have never worked but my spouse has. What will my Social Security benefits be?
- Will a husband and wife`s combined benefits be reduced because of marriage?
- Does Social Security recognize common law marriage for the purpose of paying survivors and spouse`s benefits?
- How does a divorced spouse qualify for Social Security benefits?
- Can my spouse collect benefits at age 62 from her work and earnings and then receive additional benefits as a spouse?