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As you plan for the future, you'll want to think about what your family would need if you should die now. Social Security can help your family if you have earned enough Social Security credits through your work.

How You Earn Social Security Survivors Benefits

You can earn up to four credits each year. In 2008, for example, you earn one credit for each $1,050 of wages or self-employment income. When you have earned $4,200, you have earned your four credits for the year.

The number of credits needed to provide benefits for your survivors depends on your age when you die. 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 your children and your spouse who is caring for the children even if you don't have the required number of credits. They can get benefits if you have credit for one and one-half years of work (6 credits) in the three years just before your death.

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Last reviewed or modified Tuesday Jul 22, 2008
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