If someone dies after a lifetime of paying into Social Security, that doesn't mean her taxes go to waste. Her family, including children, a surviving spouse and dependent parents, can receive benefits based on the deceased's earnings. Once a child is over the age of 18, however, it's unlikely he can qualify for payments.
If your parent passed away, you qualify for benefits if you're unmarried and under 18. You can still claim benefits until you turn 19, provided you're attending elementary or secondary school full-time. A school official will have to certify that this is true. Above that age, you only qualify if you become disabled before you turn 22 years old. In that case, you can claim disability benefits as long as the disability lasts.
To qualify you for Social Security benefits, your deceased parent must have worked in a job where she paid Social Security taxes. The longer your parent worked and the more money she paid in, the better the benefits you can claim. As her child, you're entitled to an amount equal to 75 percent of the monthly benefits she earned. If more than one member of the family receives benefits, the Social Security Administration limits the total to, at most, 180 percent of your parent's benefit.
To qualify for Social Security as an adult child, you have to be completely disabled for at least a year. If it's too soon, you qualify if your doctors expect you to stay disabled for the next 12 months or believe your condition is fatal. Your disability must be severe enough you can't return to your old job or adjust to other work. If you manage to earn under $1,010 a month -- as of 2012 -- that wouldn't disqualify you from receiving benefits.
You can apply for benefits by phone or in person but not, as of 2012, online. Apply promptly: in some cases, the SSA only pays benefits from the time you apply rather than back to the point of your parent's death. When you apply, you need your Social Security number and that of your parent, a death certificate and your birth certificate. The agency also wants the name of your bank and the number of your account so it can deposit benefits directly.
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