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If you are working...what you need to know about survivors benefits

"Life insurance" from Social Security

Many people think of Social Security only as a retirement program. But some of the Social Security taxes you pay go toward providing survivors insurance for workers and their families. In fact, the value of the survivors insurance you have under Social Security is probably more than the value of your individual life insurance.

When you die, certain members of your family may be eligible for survivors benefits. These include widows, widowers (and divorced widows and widowers), children and dependent parents.

How do I earn survivors insurance?

As you work and pay Social Security taxes, you earn credits toward your Social Security benefits. The number of years you need to work for your family to be eligible for Social Security survivors benefits depends on your age when you die. The younger a person is, the fewer years he or she needs to work. But no one needs more than 10 years of work to be eligible for any Social Security benefit.

Under a special rule, if you have worked for only one and one-half years in the three years just before your death, benefits can be paid to your children and your spouse who is caring for the children.

Who can get survivors benefits based on your work?

  • Your widow or widower may be able to receive full benefits at age 65 if born before January 1, 1940. (The age to receive full benefits is gradually increasing to age 67 for widows and widowers born January 2, 1940, or later.) Reduced widow or widower benefits can be received as early as age 60. If your surviving spouse is disabled, benefits can begin as early as age 50. For more information on widows, widowers and other survivors, visit
  • Your widow or widower can receive benefits at any age if she or he takes care of your child who is receiving Social Security benefits and younger than age 16 or disabled.
  • Your unmarried children who are under age 18 (or up to age 19 if they are attending elementary or secondary school full time) also can receive benefits. Your children can get benefits at any age if they were disabled before age 22 and remain disabled. Under certain circumstances, benefits also can be paid to your stepchildren, grandchildren, stepgrandchildren or adopted children.
  • Your dependent parents can receive benefits if they are age 62 or older. (For your parents to qualify as dependents, you would have had to ­provide at least one-half of their support.)

Benefits for surviving divorced spouses

If you have been divorced, your former wife or husband who is age 60 or older (50-59 if disabled) can get benefits if your marriage lasted at least 10 years. Your former spouse, however, does not have to meet the age or length-of-marriage rule if he or she is caring for his/her child who is under age 16 or who is disabled and also entitled based on your work. The child must be your former spouse's natural or legally adopted child.

Benefits paid to you as a surviving divorced spouse who meets the age or disability requirement as a widow or widower won't affect the benefit rates for other survivors getting benefits on the worker's record. However, if you are the surviving divorced mother or father who has the worker's child under age 16 or disabled in your care, your benefit will affect the amount of the benefits of others on the worker's record.

How much are benefits?

How much your family can get from Social Security depends on your average lifetime earnings. That means the more you have earned, the more their benefits will be. You should check your Social Security Statement, which is sent each year to every worker age 25 or older. The Statement gives an estimate of survivors benefits that could be paid, as well as an estimate of retirement and disability benefits and other important information.

One-time death payment

There is a one-time payment of $255 that can be made when you die if you have worked long enough. This payment can be made only to your spouse or minor children if they meet certain requirements.



There are 22 Comments

i need to know my grandbaby lost both parents in a car accident does she get social security for one or both. star l p thanks

This is possible, but relatively rare. In most cases, a single benefit based on the higher wage earner's history is granted.

Excerpt from :

Individuals may be entitled to auxiliary/survivor benefits based on several workers' earnings simultaneously (for example, based on the earnings of both parents), but may generally only be paid on the higher of the two. When an auxiliary/survivor beneficiary becomes entitled to another, higher benefit, the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) policy is to stop issuing the lower benefit payments, thus preventing an overpayment from occurring.

I have no knowledge about survivor rights as a spouse, thats why I am curious to know.

My questions:
What is my rights as a survivor spouse if my husband die? I am under 50 years of age, and not ready to retire but still working fulltime.

I am confuse about the retirement survivor benefits.

We have only one child, a daughter 19 yrs of age.
My husband is currently receiving pension from the NY state employment benefits pension and from the SSS pension.

My question is ...what happen if my husband die, what will happen to his pension? is that pension can be carried over to me as his survivor spouse or without waiting until my retirement age?

What are the protocols as a survivor spouse. Please explain what are my rights. I wanted to know everything about the rights as a survivor spouse. I am preparing myself what will happen to me and what consequences which may come up later, because my husband is very sick and has lots of complicated/serious health problems.

Please email copy me with your answer to : red___ AT


You will want to contact Social Security and your husband's pension plan for your particular case. However, here are some general observations.

Based on your statement, I do not see you nor your daughter receiving Social Security survivor benefits, at least for now. Generally, surviving spouses must be at least 60 to receive survivor benefits (unless disabled). Generally, surviving children over age 18 do not qualify for Social Security survivor benefits.

As your husband receives a state pension, the "GPO" may affect any Social Security survivor benefits you may receive. If you (your husband) receive a pension from a government job in which you did not pay Social Security taxes, some or all of your Social Security spouse's, widow's or widower's benefit may be offset due to receipt of that pension. This offset is referred to as the Government Pension Offset, or GPO.

Regarding your husband's state pension, please check with that agency. Pension benefits come in many forms -- often at the choice of the beneficiary. For example, you can receive a higher benefit only during your life, or a lower benefit that extends to the life of the spouse. Usually the later (survivor benefits) are the norm unless the spouse expressly waives these rights.

My daughter just turned 16 and she wants to get a part time job to save up for a car her father passed away last year so she gets survivor benifets if she gets a job would that effect her benifets?

I suggest confirming this with the SSA. However, I have never seen an indication that having a minor receive wages would affect their survivor benefits.

Note if a person receives disability insurance or SSI wages from work will likely affect their Social Security benefit. However, disability and SSI benefits are quite different from survivor benefits.

I am on permanent disability with LTD benefits. There is no requirement under the policy that I apply for SSD. My SSD benefit is about $600 less per month than my full retirement age benefit. If I die before collecting any Social Security Retirement or Disability benefits, and my wife does not retire until she reaches full retirement age (at which time I would have reached age 70), does she get my full retirement benefit that I would have gotten at age 70 or only the Survivor benefit (basically the same as my SS Disability benefit)?

I'm not sure I understand the question. I recommend contacting Social Security directly for this.

The following "Quick Calculator" provides estimated survivor benefit information which may be of use.

The following provides information on the effect of retiring early (drawing benefits before full retirement age) for survivor benefits :

I never knew I ws eligible for social security for
my deceased spouse for myself or for my children. I always thought it was based on my income so I didn't apply. My kids are now 30, 20 and 18. My husband died in '98. My youngest two are in college and I could use any help available. Thank you.

If your youngest (18) is in college, they will be unable to qualify for survivor benefits after leaving high school (unless disabled).

You may apply for widow benefits at age 60 (50 if disabled). If you can delay initiation of widow benefits you may want to do that as the monthly benefit increases for each month of delay.

There may be a chance for "back benefits", but I have not seen those awarded to someone in your situation.

My husband died in 89 and i am 57, what age can i recieve benefits? my husband would be 62 this nov 2012.

If you are the widow or widower of a person who worked long enough under Social Security, you can:

  • receive full benefits at full retirement age for survivors or reduced benefits as early as age 60.
  • begin receiving benefits as early as age 50 if you are disabled AND the disability started before or within seven years of the worker's death.

What can I do if I feel that my deceased brother's ex wife is not using the survivor's benefits that his minor children are receiving properly for their care? His ex wife is also receiving survivors benefits from my deceased brother as well.

ive worked since i was 14 years old and iam now 41yrs in the event i pass on does my only living grandchild collect my benefits? if not which family member can?

A dependent grandchild or step-grandchild may receive benefits on the record of a grandparent if the following requirements are met:

  • The grandchild's natural or adoptive parents are deceased or disabled:
    • At the time the grandparent became entitled to retirement or disability insurance benefits or died; or
    • At the beginning of the grandparent's period of disability which continued until he or she became entitled to disability or retirement insurance benefits or died.
  • The grandchild was legally adopted by the grandparent's surviving spouse in an adoption decreed by a court of competent jurisdiction within the United States.
  • The grandchild's natural or adopting parent or stepparent must not have been living in the same household and making regular contributions to the child's support at the time the grandparent died.
  • The grandchild must have lived with the grandparent in the United States before reaching age 18 and received at least one-half support from the grandparent for the year before the month the grandparent began receiving retirement or disability benefits or died.

im, 18, i attend highschool full time, and i receive survivors check once a month from my deceased father, i will keep getting until i turn 20 right? and also if i apply for a job with minimum wage, do i still be able to get the survivors check once a month as always?

Survivor benefits are available for unmarried children who are under 18 (up to age 19 if attending elementary or secondary school full time).

You may want to confirm for your case with Social Security, but it is unlikely you can receive benefits through age 20.

I have not seen a restriction on survivor benefits for children who work.

Do i get survivor benefits check every month of 1 year? even throughout the summer?

im 18, but im a junior in highschool, do i still get survivor check during the summer?


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