When a worker in a family dies, certain members of that family may become eligible for survivors’ benefits. These individuals include widows, widowers (and divorced widows and widowers), children and dependent parents. The number of years a worker needs to work for his/her family to be eligible for Social Security survivors’ benefits depends on the worker’s age. The younger the worker is, the fewer years he/she needs to work. But no one needs more than 10 years of work to be eligible for any Social Security benefit. Under a specialSocial Security rule, if a worker has worked for only one and one-half years in the three years just before his/her death, benefits can be paid to children and a spouse who is caring for the children.

A widow or widower may be able to receive full benefits at full retirement age. The full retirement age for a survivor is age 66 for people born in 1945-1956 and will gradually increase to age 67 for people born in 1962 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. A widow or widower can receive benefits at any age if she/he takes care of a child who is receiving Social Security benefits and is younger than age 16 or is disabled.

Unmarried children who are younger than age 18 (or up to age 19 if they are attending elementary or secondary school full time) can also receive benefits. Under certain circumstances, benefits may alsobe paid to stepchildren, grandchildren, step grandchildren or adopted children.

Dependent parents can receive benefits if they are age 62 or older.

If a worker has been divorced, the former spouse who is age 60 or older (50-59 if disabled) may receive benefits if the marriage lasted at least 10 years. Benefits paid to individuals as surviving divorced spouses who meet the age or disability requirements as a widow or widower will not affect the benefit rates for other survivors getting benefits on the worker’s record.

There is a one-time payment of $255 that can be made when a worker dies if he/she has worked long enough. If you need more information about Social Security survivor benefits or you are not sure if you are eligible to receive survivor benefits, please contact our offices.

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