Q:  My father passed away three years ago.  He had been receiving Social Security.  When he passed away, my mother was told she would not be able to draw anything from his record.  My father was 79 when he died, and my mother is now 49.  There are no children living at home or in school.  She was told that if she had children in school, she would still be able to draw his Social Security.   Is this right?

A:  Social Security provides two kinds of benefits to widows, and based on the information you’ve provided, your mother can’t qualify for either at this time.

If she hasn’t remarried, however, your mother will be eligible for a widow’s benefit based on your deceased father’s Social Security record when she reaches age 60.  She could be eligible for a widow’s benefit as early as age 50 if she becomes disabled.  As a widow, she will have a choice as to which benefit to begin first—her own benefit or her widow’s benefit.  She can even switch from one to the other if it becomes advantageous to do so.  For example, she could begin a reduced widow’s benefit at age 60 and switch to her own unreduced benefit at full retirement age.  Alternatively, she could wait until age 62, begin her own reduced benefit and switch to an unreduced widow’s benefit when she reaches full retirement age.