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.


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

  1. I already received my direct deposit stimulus check however I didn’t get my $500 dependent grandchild stimulus. I did a non filers part to claim that 500 before even the second deadline. In the meantime they sent out a paper check to my deceased daughter for hers in which I didn’t open and sent back immediately and I’m assuming since she claimed her daughter on 2019 taxes she received a $500 stimulus as well. When can I expect the $500 stimulus part for my granddaughter?

  2. My mom dies 15 years ago, when I was only 14 and my little brother was 4. We were in foster care and never received any money. She was receieving monthly SSI benefits. Is there anyway to still file to receive that money?? T.I.A.

    • Hi Amanda, thank you for using our blog to ask your question. The law does not allow Social Security to pay most minor children their Social Security benefits directly, they must have a representative payee. A representative payee can be a person or an organization. A payee’s main duties are to use the benefits to pay for the current and future needs of the beneficiary, and properly save any benefits not needed to meet current needs. A payee must also keep records of expenses. When we request a report, a payee must provide an accounting to us of how he or she used or saved the benefits. Check out our Representative Payee web page for more details.

  3. If I have custody of a 13 yr old who receives survivor benefits from her father. Then her birth mother died a few weeks ago. What do I need to do?; The mother was receiving survivor benefits from the father also. Thank you.

    • Hi Edgar. The children may be eligible for survivor benefits if their parent earned enough Social Security credits through work. Unmarried children who are under 18 (up to age 19 if attending elementary or secondary school full time) can be eligible to receive Social Security benefits when a parent dies.

      Check out our Survivors Planner for more details.

  4. My granddaughter is receiving death benefit SS from her moms death..she will be 18 July 29 2020 but will be going on to college right after HS graduation, will she still be able to receive her death benefit SS check then?

  5. My kids dad passed away Feb.14, 2020.My oldest is 20. My youngest son is 18 nd still in school but is still under his real custioan mother. Is the widow of his dad responsibleto get his social security without the biologicalmother

    • Hi Chanda, we are very sorry for your loss. Please advise your son, who can apply for himself, to contact Social Security to inquire about potential benefits. He can call us at 1-800-772-1213 for assistance or he can contact his local Social Security office. Please look for the general inquiry telephone number at the Social Security Office Locator. The number may appear under Show Additional Office Information. Please be aware that our call wait times are longer than normal. We hope this information helps.

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