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Your payment is largely determined by your lifetime earnings — specifically the money you earned during your highest-paying 35 years.
If you've been married at least a year, your spouse may qualify for a spousal benefit when you begin your own retirement benefit.
When valuing your assets, Social Security counts bank accounts, cash, stocks and bonds but not your home or your car, or small life insurance policies, burial plots and burial funds. A: You can apply for many types on the Social Security Administration website.
The money goes not just to the surviving spouse but to children and can be substantial over time.
Disabled adults and children who have limited incomes and resources may also qualify.
Generally, resources must be less than ,000 for an individual and ,000 for a couple.
However, it's not easy to win approval for disability benefits.
Social Security's definition of disability is quite strict — the condition must be severe enough to last for at least a year or to end in death.
However, a reduced survivor benefit can be taken as early as age 60.