The death of a parent is not only emotionally difficult; it can also put a significant financial strain on the family. To ease some of the burden of losing a wage-earner, the Social Security Administration offers one-time and monthly payments, known as survivors benefits. These benefits are provided in addition to any life insurance benefits the family may have had and are not contingent on income guidelines. However, there are other qualifications that must be met in order for a child to receive survivors benefits.
Survivors benefits are available to any children for whom the deceased worker provided at least half of the child’s support. This includes children who did not live with the deceased parent, stepchildren, grandchildren and adopted children.
The deceased parent must have earned at least six credits within three years of his death for his child to receive monthly survivors benefits. The child must be under age 18, or up to age 19 and still attending high school. Benefits end once the child reaches the maximum age unless she is disabled. In these cases, benefits continue for the duration of the child’s life, or until the SSA determines the child is no longer disabled.
Children of deceased workers receive 75 percent of their parent’s projected monthly retirement payment. If there is more than one eligible child in the household, each child will receive benefits up to a household maximum of 180 percent of the deceased worker’s projected benefit amount.
A one-time payment of $255 is available to a worker’s child if the deceased was a single parent. The SSA only provides one lump-sum payment for the entire household, even if there are additional eligible children.
The Application Process
An adult must apply for a child’s survivors benefits at a local Social Security office. The SSA requires birth certificates, Social Security cards and custody arrangement documentation for each eligible child. Applicants must also provide the deceased parent’s death certificate or a statement from the funeral home or medical examiner. To qualify for the lump-sum benefit, application must be made within two years of the parent’s death. There is no time-limit on monthly benefit applications.
Lauren Treadwell studied finance at Western Governors University and is an associate of the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors. Treadwell provides content to a number of prominent organizations, including Wise Bread, FindLaw and Discover Financial. As a high school student, she offered financial literacy lessons to fellow students.