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Millions of children receive Social Security benefits each year. If your son’s father qualified for Social Security benefits before he passed away, your son is eligible for Social Security survivor benefits based on the father's record. The amount of your son’s benefits would be determined by his father’s history of earnings.
For your son to get survivor benefits, he has to meet eligibility requirements. He must be 16 years or younger. He can continue getting benefits until he turns 18. However, if he is still in high school, his benefits won’t stop until he graduates, or two months after his 19th birthday, whichever comes first. He also must be unmarried.
If your unmarried son has a disability that occurred before he turned 22, he is eligible for survivor benefits into adulthood. He can get benefits as long as his medical condition meets the Social Security Administration’s adult definition of disability. This means his disability must be long-term or terminal and prevent him from working.
Your son would receive 75 percent of his father’s entitled benefit amount. His survivor benefits would be tax-free and would be paid to him on a monthly basis. However, if anyone else is also getting benefits on his father’s record, your son's payments might might be reduced. The Social Security Administration limits the amount a family can get on a worker’s record to between 150 and 180 percent of his entitled benefit. If the total family benefits would exceed the limit, each person’s benefit payments are reduced proportionately.
Working Affects Benefits
If your son is working, he can still get survivor benefits. However, if his earnings are substantial according to Social Security guidelines, his benefits can be reduced. Your son isn’t at full retirement age, which is based on his year of birth, so as of 2012 he could make up to $14,640 without any benefit reductions. His benefits are reduced $1 for every $2 he earns over this limit.
Your son’s benefits can become taxable if his earnings plus half of his survivor benefits top income limits set by the Internal Revenue Service. For example, as of 2012, if his combined income was more than $25,000 per year, 50 percent of his survivor benefits were taxed at normal income tax rates. Up to 85 percent of his benefits were taxed if his combined income surpassed $34,000 per year.
Special One-Time Lump Sum Death Benefit
The Social Security Administration might give your son a special one-time lump sum death benefit of $255 in addition to his monthly survivor benefits. He gets the benefit if his father didn’t have a spouse who was living with him when he died, or who was receiving benefits or was eligible for them in the month he died. Your son gets the benefit if he was receiving survivor benefits or became eligible for them on his father’s record during the month he died. He has two years from the date of his father’s death to claim the one-time benefit.
- Social Security Administration: Congressional Statistics, December 2011
- Social Security Administration: Survivors Planner: If You're the Worker's Minor or Disabled Child
- Social Security Administration: Disability Benefits
- Social Security Administration: Survivors Planner: How Much Would Your Benefit Be?
- Social Security Administration: Retirement Planner: Getting Benefits While Working
- Social Security Administration: Benefits Planner: Income Taxes and Your Social Security Benefits
- Social Security Administration: Survivors Planner: A Special Lump-Sum Death Payment
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