How Much Social Security Benefits Is My Child Entitled to Because His Father Died?

A man's adopted child or stepchild can get survivor benefits on the man's record.

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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.


If your son qualifies for survivor benefits, he can receive 75 percent of his father's entitled benefit amount, although he may have his benefits reduced depending on whether he works and how much he earns.

Eligibility for Survivor Benefits

For your son to get survivor benefits, he has to meet eligibility requirements. He must be unmarried and 16 years or younger, and 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.

Disabled Child Benefits

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.

Entitled Benefit Amounts

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 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 2019, he could make up to $17,640 without any benefit reductions. His benefits are reduced $1 for every $2 he earns over this limit.

Combined Income and Taxable Benefits

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 2019, 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 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.