Social Security Benefits for Children of Deceased Parents

Eligible children may receive Survivors Benefits.

Eligible children may receive Survivors Benefits.

The death of a parent can place financial burdens on the surviving parent who must raise children alone. There may be some help through the Social Security retirement system if the child qualifies for survivors benefits. Nearly 4.4 million children of retired, disabled or deceased parents get monthly Social Security benefits that provide financial stability for their families, according to the Social Security Administration. A child’s eligibility depends on the deceased parent’s lifetime earnings and how much the parent paid into Social Security.

Survivors Benefits

Your child qualifies for Survivors Benefits based on the number of credits his parent earned for work and the parent’s age at the time of death. In 2012, workers earned one credit for every $1,130 in earned income. The younger a parent is at the time of death, the fewer credits are required to qualify. Although the SSA sets 10 work years or 40 credits as enough to qualify, children may still get them if the deceased parent earned at least six credits in the three years before death.

Child Eligibility

A deceased parent’s eligible children may be biological, dependent stepchildren or adopted as long as they're unmarried and under the age of 18. The benefits usually end after that age, but there exceptions for students and children with a disability. A child with disabilities from a low income family could also get additional benefits from the federal Supplemental Security Income program.

Special Provisions

A single child can get 75 percent of her deceased parent’s benefit or up to half of the parent’s benefits for full retirement or disability. A cap may apply if more than one child is eligible. The SSA will reduce each child’s benefit amount until the total is within the limits. You might be eligible for Survivors Benefits too if your child gets them. The SSA will not reduce your benefits to get the family total within the limit.

Applying for Benefits

An application for the benefits must include the child’s birth certificate, Social Security numbers for the child and the deceased parent, and proof of the parent’s death. If the child is disabled, the SSA requires form SSA-827 Authorization to Disclose Information to the Social Security Administration (SSA) and form SSA-3368 Adult Disability Report, which is submitted online. You might need to come up with other documents, like military records, proof of citizenship and income tax forms.

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About the Author

Gail Sessoms, a grant writer and nonprofit consultant, writes about nonprofit, small business and personal finance issues. She volunteers as a court-appointed child advocate, has a background in social services and writes about issues important to families. Sessoms holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in liberal studies.

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