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Who is entitled to survivors’ benefits from Social Security & who is eligible?

When certain family members who have paid into, or is receiving Social Security, passes away, others are able to claim their benefits.

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Each month, millions of workers pay a portion of their income to the Social Security Administration (SSA) and later will be allowed to rely on a modest income in retirement. However, some of the money collected each month goes towards the distribution of payments for survivors of beneficiaries who had paid in or were receiving Social Security benefits.

If you are eligible to receive survivor benefits it is important to claim them quickly, as they are not retroactive in many cases.

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Survivors can receive Social Security benefits from a decreased beneficiaries and work at the same time. The Social Security Administration does warn, however, that if you have a total income above a certain limit, the benefits will be reduced, but not lost. Once the survivor or spouse reaches retirement age, the amount withheld will be added to their benefit amount.

Who is eligible to receive survivor benefits?

Certain family members may be eligible to receive monthly benefits, including:

  • A widow or widower age 60 or older (age 50 or older if they have a disability).
  • A surviving divorced spouse, under certain circumstances.
  • A widow or widower at any age who is caring for the deceased’s child who is under age 16 or has a disability and receiving child’s benefits.
  • An unmarried child of the deceased who is one of the following:
  • Younger than age 18 (or up to age 19 if they are a full-time student in an elementary or secondary school).
  • Age 18 or older with a disability that began before age 22.

What about extra support for the widow or widower?

If you are the widow or widower of someone who worked long enough then you can receive benefits, at a reduced rate, at a younger age than usual. If you have a disability and the disability started before or within seven years of the worker’s death then you can receive Social Security benefits at age 50. If you do not have a disability then this age is 50.

The SSA has more information if you need the full breakdown on what is a very sad and complex situation for family members.