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Can Social Security provide for my loved ones when I’m gone?

You may think of Social Security as something that only provides for you in retirement. However, if you die prematurely, Social Security can also function as a sort of life insurance policy for you loved ones. In fact, the benefits can be significant.

In today’s post, we examine the basics of the so-called survivor benefits under the Social Security program:


The Social Security system operates using a metric known as “credits.” Each $1,260 of income equals one credit, and any working individual can only earn a maximum of four credits per year. In order for that individual to qualify for retirement benefits, they must have earned 40 credits over their career—i.e., $5,040 a year for 10 years.

Survivor benefits work in much the same way as retirement benefits. In many cases, you also need to have earned 40 credits for your loved ones to qualify for survivor benefits. However, if you’re particularly young when you pass away, your loved ones may still be eligible for survivor benefits, even if you have fewer credits.

Who can benefit?

Many people can receive survivor benefits in the event of your untimely passing—and multiple qualifying individuals can receive benefits at the same time:


A spouse may qualify for survivor benefits if they are:

  • At least 60 years old
  • At least 50 years old and disabled
  • Any age and has a child with you, who is under 16
  • An ex-spouse meeting certain qualifications


A child may qualify for benefits if they are:

  • Over the age of 18 and disabled—a condition which must have started before age 22
  • 19 or younger and still in high school
  • 18 or younger and unmarried


A parent may qualify for survivor benefits if the parent is at least 63 years old and your dependent.

Social Security is just one way in which you can provide for your loved ones once you’re gone—but only if you pass away before you reach retirement age. To create a robust end-of-life plan, it’s worth consulting with an experienced estate planning attorney.

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