Dear Liz: Can you clear up something for me regarding Social Security survivors benefits? The yearly summaries I get tell me my family will receive payments if I die. But it’s not clear to me how long these last and if they expire when my children are no longer minors. Do payments continue to be made to my surviving spouse as well, and if so for how long?
Answer: Your unmarried children can receive Social Security survivors benefits until they turn 18, or 19 if they are still attending high school full time. Your kids can get benefits at any age if they were disabled before age 22 and remain disabled.
Your spouse can get benefits as long as he or she takes care of a child receiving your survivor benefits. Your spouse also can receive widow or widowers benefits as early as age 60 (or 50 if disabled).
The amount of the benefit depends on your average lifetime earnings and is estimated on the annual Social Security statement you get. The more money you make before you die, the greater the benefit.
For more information, SSA Publication No. 05-10084 is available on the Social Security Administration website at www.ssa.gov or by calling (800) 772-1213.