Just as you plan for your family's protection if you die, you should consider the Social Security benefits that may be available if you are the survivor--that is, the spouse or child--of a worker who dies. That person must have worked long enough under Social Security to qualify for benefits.
How Your Spouse Earns Social Security Survivors Benefits
A worker can earn up to four credits each year. In 2014, for example, your spouse can earn one credit for each $1,200 of wages or self-employment income. When your spouse has earned $4,800, he or she has earned his or her four credits for the year.
The number of credits needed to provide benefits for survivors depends on the worker's age when he or she dies. The younger a person is, the fewer credits he or she must have for family members to receive survivors benefits. But no one needs more than 40 credits (10 years of work) to be eligible for any Social Security benefit.
However, benefits can be paid to the worker's children and the surviving spouse who is caring for the children even if the worker doesn't have the required number of credits. They can get benefits if the worker has credit for one and one-half years of work (6 credits) in the three years just before his or her death.
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