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Can Survivors Get Benefits?

Help can go to a young family that loses its breadwinner

Q. If a married worker dies, does his family get Social Security? 

A. Yes. Many people think Social Security just helps retirees, but that’s not the case: Social Security also provides significant survivor benefits to 5.5 million families.

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Example: A 30-year-old medium-wage earner dies, leaving a wife, 28, with a 2-year-old and a newborn. Those children would be entitled to survivor benefits that over time would equal a $476,000 life insurance policy, according to the Social Security Administration.

Children in such a family could collect benefits until they’re 18, or until 19 if they’re full-time students in high school.

While a healthy 30-year-old could buy that amount of private life insurance for a fairly small premium, relatively few young people do, according to certified financial planner Len Cohen of Gaithersburg, Md.

Stan Hinden, a former columnist for the Washington Post, wrote 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.

You may also like: Top 25 Social Security questions.

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