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6 Questions and Answers on Social Security Survivor Benefits

Jan 04, 2021 4 min read Heather R. Johnson

Key takeaways

  • Spouses can receive full Social Security survivor benefits at age 66.
  • Children, grandchildren and stepchildren may be eligible for survivor benefits.
  • Apply promptly—the SSA calculates some benefits from the time you apply.

 

Social Security benefits not only help fund your retirement years. They can also provide financial security to your spouse after you die.

To receive full survivor benefits, you have to be at or beyond “full” retirement age Opens in new window. (Currently 66 and two months for those born in or before 1955.) Before that, you'll receive a percentage of the monthly benefit, starting with 71.5%  (at age 60).

Survivors benefits could help supplement your 401(k) or similar workplace plan distributions. When can you withdraw from a 401(k)? You must wait until age 59½ unless you want to pay a 10% early withdrawal penalty. After age 72, you must start start taking annual required minimum distributions (RMDs).

 

 

The rules on Social Security survivors benefits can get complicated. Here are answers to six common questions

 

What you can do next

Set up an account at SSA.gov Opens in new window, so you can review statements, change direct deposit information and find other details about Social Security benefits. Use the benefits calculator Opens in new window to estimate monthly payments—you'll need to enter your past earnings, which you'll find on your Social Security statement.

Remember that everyone’s situation is unique, so speaking with an SSA representative or benefits expert can help you identify the benefits you’re entitled to and how to access them.

Footnotes

Heather R. Johnson writes about finance, small business and health care from Oakland, CA. Her work has appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle and Houston Chronicle, and with brands such as Bank of America, Wells Fargo and RE/MAX, among others.

 

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