Ask Bob: What Social Security Benefits are Available to the Widow and Children?

Adviser Joe Alfonso helps a reader understand what benefits she and her children are eligible for from Social Security and when they can receive those benefits.
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Question

When a spouse passes on in his/her early years, the marriage was over 10 years and they have kids, can the widow utilize the Social Security survivor benefits? And at what age?

Answer

If the decedent spouse has credit for one and one-half years of work (6 credits) in the three years just before their death, and the surviving spouse is caring for a child who is disabled or under age 16, the surviving spouse can receive a survivor benefit at any age, says Joe Alfonso, CFP®, from Aegis Financial Advisory, LLC.

The benefit will be based on 75% of the deceased spouse’s benefit, as determined by the SSA using a formula for workers who did not accumulate the normal 10 years (40 credits) of work required to be entitled to benefits.

He explains, “Each young child is also eligible for a survivor benefit up to age 17, or 18 if still in secondary school. The total benefits paid to the surviving spouse and children are limited by the Maximum Family Benefit rules.”

When all children are over the age of 16, the survivor benefit for the surviving spouse ends, and does not resume until the survivor is eligible for the normal survivor benefit starting at age 60. In addition, Alfonso says, “If the surviving spouse remarries before age 60 they are no longer eligible for a survivor benefit on the deceased former spouse’s record.”

“The rules for young widow/widower survivor benefits are complicated,” notes Alfonso. “It is best to contact the SSA to report the death and confirm the benefits the survivor is entitled to.”

Question

When a spouse passes on in his/her early years, the marriage was over 10 years and they have kids, can the widow utilize the Social Security survivor benefits? And at what age?

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