Social Security is America’s leading social program for providing support to those in need. However, navigating the rules and regulations can be a bit of a challenge. Sometimes, even Social Security Administration representatives are not completely educated about the various benefits for which an applicant may be eligible. In this article, we focus on Social Security Survivor Benefits.


The first question is, who gets these benefits? Well, if you have been working and paying your Social Security taxes, then, if you die, your widow(er), children and dependent parents would be eligible for survivor benefits. Usually, you need to have made it to 40 work credits for your family to receive full survivor benefits.


Here’s how you get work credits. In 2017, for every $1,300 you earn you get 1 work credit. You can earn a maximum of 4 work credits per year. So, if you earn $5,200 in a year, you earn 4 credits.


A person normally needs to reach the age of 60 to be eligible for survivor benefits as a widow(er) or divorced spouse. But there are exceptions to the rule. Here are the exceptions:

  • You don’t need to be 60 for your dependents to be eligible for Survivor benefits. Even if a worker dies young and has not amassed 40 work credits, his or her family would still be eligible for survivor benefits. For example, if a worker dies at the age of 28, he/she needs to have collected at least 6 credits for his/her dependents to be eligible for maximum but not full benefits. The age of the survivor will determine when he/she will be eligible for full benefits – which is usually at full retirement age (FRA). Here’s a little catch: the FRA for a survivor (widow/widower) is different from a worker’s or spouse’s FRA.


  • If you are taking care of the deceased worker’s child who is below the age of 16, or is disabled (age doesn’t matter then), and is drawing social security under as the worker’s dependent, then you will be eligible for 75% of the full benefits no matter what age you are. The child of the deceased worker will also get 75% of the deceased worker’s full benefits.


  • If you remarry after your worker spouse dies, then a different set of rules apply. If you remarry after you reach full retirement age, then you will be entitled to 82.5% or 100% of the benefit amount. You receive 82.5% if the worker took early retirement. You will receive 100% if all criteria were met by the worker to be eligible for full retirement benefits.


  • If you are the natural parent(s) of the deceased worker, or adopted him/her before he/she turned 16, at above the age of 62, and were receiving more than 50% support from him/her, then you will be eligible for benefits.


Survivor benefits can be rather complicated, so make sure you understand all your entitlements before you meet with your Social Security Administration representative.


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