If You Are Young and Lose a Parent

Social Security is here for young people when a parent passes away. We know that the loss of a parent isn’t just emotionally painful; it can be devastating to a family’s finances. In the same way that Social Security helps to lift up the disabled and elderly when they need it, we support families when an income-earning parent dies.

In 2017, we distributed an average of $2.6 billion each month to benefit about 4.2 million children because one or both of their parents are disabled, retired, or deceased. Those dollars help to provide the necessities of life and help make it possible for those children to complete high school.

You might ask, who can get child’s benefits? Your unmarried child can get benefits if they’re:

  • Younger than age 18;
  • 18-19 years old and a full-time student (no higher than grade 12); or
  • 18 or older with a disability that began before age 22.

To get benefits, a child must have:

  • A parent who’s disabled or retired and entitled to Social Security benefits; or
  • A parent who died after having worked long enough in a job where they paid Social Security taxes.

Benefits stop when your child reaches age 18 unless your child is a student or disabled.

Within a family, a child can receive up to half of the parent’s full retirement or disability benefit. If a child receives Survivors benefits, he or she can get up to 75 percent of the deceased parent’s basic Social Security benefit.

There is a limit to the amount of money that we can pay to a family. This family maximum is determined as part of every Social Security benefit computation. It can be from 150 to 180 percent of the parent’s full benefit amount. If the total amount payable to all family members exceeds this limit, we reduce each person’s benefit proportionately (except the parent’s) until the total equals the maximum allowable amount.

Children with disabilities may also be eligible for benefits. You can read more about Benefits for Children with Disabilities.

Social Security is securing today and tomorrow, protecting our future and the next generation.

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67 thoughts on “If You Are Young and Lose a Parent

    • I just opened a checking account for my 8 year old sons retroactive check that was sent to me..it was stated as “my name for my sons name” on the check ..it was a check of over 10,000.00 they put the standard hold on it..fine but said they had to call their attorney to see if they could issue a debit card??? Really?? The moneys have to be accounted for and they will be..that’s actually a BETTER way to show purchases made in my opinion..not taking a gambling trip to Vegas with it..my sone not disabled ..these were his funds from my husband..his father’s death 2 years ago..I’m not going to be thrilled I opened this account there if I can’t get a debit card..that’s ridiculous kind of..

      • We are sorry for any inconvenience, Heather. Unfortunately, and because of security reasons we do not have access to personal records in this blog and cannot provide assistant at this time. One of our representatives should be able to provide you with an explanation.
        Please call our toll free number at 1-800-772-1213 for assistance. Representatives are available Monday through Friday, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Generally, you will have a shorter wait time if you call later during the day or later in the week. Thanks.

        • I understand that of course..I was just wondering if that was a ” standard procedure” to not have access to debit cards for that type of payment.

  1. I think it is wrong to stop paying for children at 18.
    How do you expect students to further their education without other resources? College Funds should be made available for children who want to prepare for a better future.

    • That’s the way it was 30 years ago but those benefits were stopped in order to make the program solvent. Once a child turns 18 it is expected that they can get a job and work their way through college which is what happened 2 generations ago.

    • I completely agree with you. This is not 30 years ago and in this economy there is no working your way threw college without going into debt. From my understanding is that if you apply 3 months before a child turns 18 benefits can exceed to 23 as long as they are in school/ college. My niece turns 18 before she grads from high school and she can still receive benefits til she’s 2 months after she’s turned 19

      • To clarify; when a parent gets Social Security retirement benefits or disability benefits, his or her child also may get benefits. Children also can get benefits when a parent dies. To get benefits, the child must be unmarried and:
        – Younger than age 18;
        – A full-time student (no higher than grade 12) 18 to 19 years old; or
        – Have a disability that started before age 22 and is 18 years or older.
        For more information read our publication “Benefits For Children“.
        Thanks!

        • I am SO CONFUSED!! I finally applied for survivor benefits just today..and my husband died almost 2 years ago. I filed as mother caring for child..our son is 8 years old..I’m 51 and do work but make well under the 17,000.00 that would reduce any benefits I’d get..so it’s a basic case..my husband was 36 when he died in 2016..none of us are/were disabled..none of us have ever received benefits..the rep said the amount would be 1,020.00 a month and I belive upon running both myself and our son..she said he was the only one who was coming up as qualified..which is FINE with me..I’d think it’s less hassle that way than to split that same amount between myself and him..we were married and the marriage license confirmed that but we didn’t live together from 2012-2016 due to his incarnation..and he died 3 months after his release..would that make a difference?? Also she said my son’s benefit would stop when he was 15 years old?? Really? I mean that fine but I’ve never read that..ALWAYS 18..sorry to pour my life out but if I GOOGLE anymore to get NO ANSWERS I’m going to lose my mind..grrrr. Thanks for ANY help here..Heather Sposato

          • Hello Heather. Normally, benefits for children stop when children reach age 18, unless they are disabled. However, if the child is still a full-time student at a secondary (or elementary) school at age 18, Social Security benefits will continue until the child graduates or until two months after the child becomes age 19, whichever is first.
            See “Benefits for Children” for more information. Thanks!

    • I completly agree! My kids are 19 and 18, they both are continuing their education and as a single mom on disability myself how do I help them stay in school after all of the “gov’t help”?

  2. Age? Yes it’s important, but darn it how does one live on$30.00 a Month when all bill are paid. Yes I’m getting help however the help I need is food. I have been diagnoised by specilists for Chronic Migrainescnbigelow2charter.net

  3. My son received a monthly death benefit when my husband passed, for about 1 year, until he was 18. He took a part time job delivering pizza a few hours per week and earned $2,000. We recently received a letter that we owe the $2,000 for the amount he earned during that time when he received benefits. Is this correct? Doesn’t seem fair.
    Thank you,
    Karen

  4. It seems like everyone can get more from social security benefits than a widow whose’s husband worked for more than 75 years was married to the same woman for 64 years raised their family without government help. At death, social security then penalizes his widow. Something is really wrong with social security as it now is..

  5. What if three children are receiving survivor benefits and they move to another state while they are still under 18? Do the benefits remain the same? If the widower remarries, would that impact the children’s survivor benefit from their deceased parent?

  6. My ex-brother-in-law just died of a heart attack. He has known for over 15 years of his heart condition, but never applied for S.S.D. or prepared for his death. He had custody of 3 children.
    The oldest son has been diagnosed a long time ago with autism and a few other disabilities. The father has never prepared this boy for a social life or education. The boy use to be full of rage and lash out in severe unhealthy behaviors.
    The father has never gotten the boy (now age 22) a photo I.D., or applied for S.S.I. (which he clearly would benefit from).

    My oldest son (age 32) wants to try to get custody so the boy will not become a part of a state hospital system.
    My fiance and I are supporting this decision.

    I’m confused by all the “political issue ” that stand in the way.

    What’s the very first best move for the 22 year old with a disability?

    • He needs to apply for disability, or somebody close to him needs to get him signed up. If your son is wanting custody etc, start with a state i.d., and file for disability, dr’s appts etc

  7. I was young and lost a parent. Except mine was through divorce. They might have as well been dead. No child support; nothing. It’s sad that nothing is available for those in similar circumstances.

  8. My sister passed when she was in her 30s and left a 14 year old behind …. That was about 12 or so years ago..
    My guestion is where did my sisters SSecurity go..Can my niece ever recieve her mother’s benefits….the money she paid in or does the government just TAKE that money.

    • If your sister worked and paid into SSecurity, then her daughter is intitle to her SSecurity under the servivors benfits , go into the office. call them frist at 1-800-772-1213 now don’t weight get it start

  9. My late husband’s Social Security was stolen by Brookdale Hospice Medical Staff an unknown male. My 4 children and me the surviving spouse did not get a dollar to live on. Outrageous. What’s wrong with the Social Security Administration? You pay drug addicts and alcoholism problematics, immigrants, and low life scum of the 🌎. They abused the government and the Presidents allow this. Something criminal is wrong is going on. Fix it. God going to get every no good judge watch.

    • Hello Heidi. We should be notified immediately when a person dies. However, you cannot report a death or apply for survivors benefits online.
      If you need to apply for benefits for your children, please call our toll free number at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778). You can speak to a Social Security representative between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. You can also visit your local Social Security office. An appointment is not required, but if you call ahead and schedule one, it may reduce the time you spend waiting to speak to someone. Thanks.

      • I have tried several times to call and schedule an appointment to apply for benefits for my daughter & I am always told there is no representative available to assist me at this time and then the call disconnects? The closest office is over 30 minutes away with limited hours

  10. My husband was on social security disability and died October 1992. Our daughter became eligible to receive his ongoing disability income while she was a student starting at her age of 12. Her benefit was stopped on her 18th bday even though she was still in high school not graduating until that june 1998 or six months later, based on her date of birth and when she began school. When I questioned ss on this I was told no, 18 is 18 even if she is still a student. My daughter is owed those last six months of her father’s disability money. I await your written reply.

    • Hello Angela. Unfortunately, and because of security reasons we do not have access to personal records in this blog and cannot provide any assistance on this matter.
      One of our representatives should be able to provide you with an explanation. Please call our toll free number at 1-800-772-1213 for assistance. Representatives are available Monday through Friday, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Generally, you will have a shorter wait time if you call later during the day or later in the week. Thanks.

  11. My grand daughter lost her mother Nov 12 2015. She fell off a cruise ship and died. We do not have a death certificate. Do we need that before we can get her any benefits? Chris

  12. Just a quick question if a 16 year old is receiving death benefits and drops out of school and leaves home and the parent is still supporting them dose the benefits stop or contain until they are 18

    • I have a similar question, regarding a 16-year-old who dropped out of school but he does still live with his mother. If he dropped out of school, will his survivor’s benefit from his father be discontinued? I have been unable to find an answer on the web site.

  13. Any at social security plan for me this letter I received from social security…I m the mother of the child she will turn 16 year old on oct/16/2018.. she not yes 16 but there stop her benefit already …and she under 18 …why the S.S stop her benefit she received that money from her dad die…and I’m her mother ,I m sick and I received my disability benefits that call the ssi and ssa…now I don’t understand this letter from S.S sent to me stop benefit for my daughter or my ..and why ?? Frist my daughter not 18 year old yes…and second thing ,if there stop my benefit that not right too ..I’m disability that why I received my ssi and ssa benefit a long time before my husband die …can anyone plan to me what going on …

    • Michelle, thank you for using our blog. For your security, we do not have access to your benefit information in this venue. For assistance, please call our toll-free number at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778). Representatives are available between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., Monday through Friday or contact your local Social Security office.

  14. To : social security who may concern this letter for me ..plan for me …why my daughter stop her benefit when she turn 16…and in oct /16 that on her birthday but in the 1 of this the month there stop already …

    You will not betitled to a social security benefit beginning Oct/2018. When Sally is 16.

    Your benefit will stop but your child will continue receiving benefit to age 18.
    We may be able to continue your benefit if your child is disabled or you caring for other child who is under 16or disabled…..

    ( Please plan to me this letter I receive from social security couple month ago.. and my daughter stop her benefit already when her birthday not came yes ,,,Oct/16/2018 she will turn 16 …but now oct/1/2018. The social security stop her benefit already …and my question is I’m disabled I’m receiving my ssi and my ssa ..how I’m take care my daughter thought when she turn 18 ?

  15. Any one at social security please can explain for me this letter I received from social security…I m the mother of the child she will turn 16 year old on oct/16/2018.. she not yes 16 but there stop her benefit already …and she under 18 …why the S.S stop her benefit she received that money from her dad died.
    I m sick and I received my disability benefits that call the ssi and ssa…now I don’t understand this letter say from S.S sent to me there stop benefit of my daughter or of my ..And why ?? Frist my daughter not 18 year old yes….and second thing ,if there stop my benefit that not right too ..I’m disabled I can’t go to work that is the reason I received my ssi and ssa benefit a long time ago before my husband die …can anyone explain to me what going on …this letter I received from social security…I m the mother of the child who is will turn 16 year old on oct/16/2018.. she not turn 16 year old yes …but there stop her benefit already on oct/1/2018…and she under 18 …And why the S.S stop her benefit she received that money from her dad died and I’m her mother ,I m sick (disabled) and I received my disability benefits very month that call the ssi and ssa benefit.
    I don’t understand this letter from S.S sent to me why stop benefit of my daughter or my I don’t understand all that ..and why there stop my benefit and how I take care her thought when she turn 18 ?? Frist thing my daughter not 18 year old yes…and second thing ,if there stop my benefit how I take care her to go to school ..I’m disability too that why I received my ssi and ssa ,I recieiving my benefit a long time before my husband die …
    Can anyone from social security explain to me what going on …for me this letter I received…can anyone plan to me what going on …

  16. My Nephew get survivors benefits from the passing of his father, however he does not live with his mother and has not since June 28, 2018. She does not give that money to his grandparent since he has been with her since then, is that Illegal?

    • Hello Nicole, if you suspect misuse of Social Security benefits, report it. We will investigate all allegations of misuse, gather facts and evidence, and make a decision on whether misuse has occurred. If we find misuse occurred, we may find a new representative payee for your nephew. Generally, we look for family or friends to serve as representative payees. When friends or family are not able to serve as payees, Social Security looks for qualified organizations to be representative payees.
      Please call 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) Monday through Friday, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. to speak to one of our representatives. Or you can contact your local Social Security office. Thanks!

  17. Does child benefits stop when he turns 16. I am aware that my spouse benefits will stop when he turns 16. any
    information you could give me i would appreciate it.
    Thank you

    • Thank you for your question, Chris. Generally, benefits for children stop when your child reaches age 18, unless your child is a student or disabled. For more important information on this topic, visit our Frequently Asked Questions web page.

  18. if a child is receiving benefits from a deceased parent and they get legally adopted will they continue to receive benefits?

  19. My ex husband passed away in 2012. My son was a minor then but I didn’t know that he could receive social security income from my ex-husband’s account. I was hoping to talk to someone about this issue.

    • Hi, Debra. For your and your son’s security, we do not have access to private information in this venue. We do ask that members in our Blog community contact our offices with questions about their specific case. You can also call us at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., Monday through Friday. Wait times are generally shorter later in the day. We hope this helps.

  20. My grandsons parents are both deceased. He is only 12. Parents didn’t have enough credits for SS benefits for the child. What can we do.

  21. My daughter receives survivor benefits from her birth mother passing away. I am remarried and my wife is doing the step parent adoption of my daughter. Will she lose those survivor benefits?

  22. In what year did SSA begin paying survivor benefits to children? If one parent is deceased and the surviving parent applies for survivor benefits 10 years after the death of the deceased parent, does the child qualify for payments back to the date of death? Assume the deceased parent had earnings sufficient for the child to qualify for survivor benefits. If the answer is, yes the child qualifies for payments back to the date of death, does the serviiving parent need to ask for the back-pay, or is it automatically offered?

  23. Hi my son and I are receiving Survivor benefits . And when I applyed I was pregnant with my little girl. She is now 7 years old so Is my daughter still Eligible To apply for survivor benefits or is it to late? He dad passed 7 years ago

    • Hello Mia. Thank you for your question. Entitlement for Survivor benefits are based on relationship with the wage earner. In this case (your daughter’s father). She may still be qualified to receive this benefit. We suggest that you work with your local Social Security office for guidance in this matter. We hope this helps. Thanks.

  24. A very helpful article, thank you. What happens when there are three children by 2 different mothers (no marriages) and one turns 18, does the money that the others receive increase at all?
    Thank You,
    Mary

  25. Survival benefits for my son he is going to be 18 in January but he still going to high school an I need to setup an appointment at my local office 95020
    My name is Guillermina arreola 408 5719642
    I need help how to fill out paperwork

    • Thank you for contacting us. Unfortunately, and because of security reasons, we do not have access to personal records in this blog and cannot make an appointment for you.

      For help with your paperwork, you will need to contact your local office or call our toll-free number at 1-800-772-1213. Representatives are available Monday through Friday, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.

  26. I have some questions, my name is Sarina Goetz, my father died in 2010, when I was 9 years old. from what I know, my adopted parents have been collecting the money and putting it away or using it or my expenses, I just have some questions about what happens to my money when I turn 18.
    Please get back to me soon,
    Thank you

    • Thank you for your question, Sarina. Normally, benefits for children stop when children reach age 18, unless they are disabled. However, if the child is still a full-time student at a secondary (or elementary) school at age 18, Social Security benefits will continue until the child graduates or until two months after the child becomes age 19, whichever is first.
      Also, at age 18 you become your own payee, and you will be able to manage your funds accordingly.
      To learn more, read our publication: “A Guide for Representative Payees“.

  27. I am guardian to my minor brother who receives survivor benefits because both of our parents died. Is there a limit to how much money he can have saved in order to keep receiving benefits?

    • Thank you for your question, Anni. The survivor’s benefits your brother is receiving are not affected by other income or other resources.
      Normally, benefits for children stop when children reach age 18, unless they are disabled. However, if the child is still a full-time student at a secondary (or elementary) school at age 18, Social Security benefits will continue until the child graduates or until two months after the child becomes age 19, whichever is first.
      There is no limit on how much he can save. Thanks!

  28. My grandson receives survivor benefits from my deceased son. His mother worked up until he started getting survivor benefits she no longer works. When his check comes she states “I get paid next Wednesday”. My Grandson has not seen any of the money not is it being saved. She pays the rent on a house her and my grandson live in while her boyfriend is out of state working. All the household bills out of my grandsons money. Then he asks for a wrist band at the fair and she says we have no extra money it was $25.00 but then 30 minutes later she is walking around with 2 beers in her hand says she buys food my grandson asked me grandma then why do we never have food. My grandson receives 1200+ a month and has nothing to show for it since 2016 when payments started. He received almost $40,000.00 already and will be 18 in 2 1/2 years. Should I report her and ask to be his representative payee. My son worked hard to make sure if anything happened to him the kids would be taken care of. Not have the mother quit work and have her son support her on his survivor benefits. Really do not know what to do Any suggestions would help.

    • If you suspect misuse of Social Security benefits, report it. We will investigate all allegations of misuse, gather facts and evidence, and make a decision on whether misuse has occurred. If we find misuse occurred, SSA may find a new representative payee.
      Generally, we look for family or friends to serve as representative payees. When friends or family are not able to serve as payees, Social Security looks for qualified organizations to be representative payees.
      You can apply to become your grandson’s representative payee. You will need to contact your local Social Security office for a face-to-face interview.
      Please read our publication: “A Guide For Representative Payees” for more information.
      To make an appointment, please call 1-800-772-1213 between 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. to speak to one of our representatives. Generally, you’ll have a shorter wait time if you call later during the day or later in the week. Thanks.

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