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Social Security Survivor Benefits

What are the rules for widows, widowers, children — and survivors with their own benefits?

Q. What happens when widows or widowers who receive survivor benefits become eligible for their own retirement benefits?

A. Social Security provides widows and widowers with considerable flexibility in deciding how to take their benefits.

For example, a widow who took a reduced survivor benefit at age 60, can switch to her own earnings record when she becomes eligible at age 62-- if the benefit would be greater. Or she can wait to switch until she reaches full retirement age and receive her own full retirement benefit -- if that is higher.

Stan Hinden is a former columnist for the Washington Post specializing in retirement issues. He is the author of How to Retire Happy: The 12 Most Important Decisions You Must Make Before You Retire. Have a question for the Social Security Mailbox? Check out the archive. If you don't find your answer there, send a query.

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