Survivors

If You Are Young and Lose a Parent

September 13, 2018 • By

Last Updated: September 13, 2018

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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About the Author

Jim Borland, Acting Deputy Commissioner for Communications

Comments

  1. Mary W.

    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

  2. Mia

    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

    • Kenny O.

      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.

  3. Grace

    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?

  4. Steve

    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?

  5. Sandra

    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.

    • Vonda V.

      Hi Sandra. Your grandson may be eligible for dependent grandchild benefits at some point. Unfortunately, and because of security reasons, we do not have access to personal records in this blog and cannot assist you. To inquire, 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.

  6. Debra B.

    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.

    • Ann C.

      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.

  7. Patricia M.

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

  8. chris s.

    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

    • Ray F.

      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.

  9. Nicole s.

    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?

    • Ray F.

      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!

  10. Michelle

    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 …

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