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Can my children get my Social Security benefits when I die?

In a manner of speaking, yes. Children may qualify for survivor benefits on the earnings record of a deceased parent.

The need for this benefit has grown more acute with the emergence of COVID-19. While the pandemic struck hardest at adults beyond parenting age, about 300,000 U.S. children had lost one or both parents to the disease as of June 30, 2023, according to the Global Reference Group on Children Affected by COVID-19

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Children may qualify for Social Security survivor benefits if they are unmarried and: 

  • under 18;
  • 18, or in some cases 19, and still attending high school full time;
  • or have a disability that dates to before the child turned 22. 

In some circumstances, stepchildren, grandchildren and step-grandchildren may also qualify for survivor benefits. The payment amount is 75 percent of the late parent’s (or grandparent’s) primary insurance amount, which is the full benefit the deceased was entitled to based on his or her earnings history.

A surviving parent or other person applying for benefits on behalf of a bereaved child will need to provide proof of the child's relationship to the deceased, such as a birth certificate or adoption record, and answer questions about their living circumstances. You'll find details about the information and documentation required on the Social Security Administration's Form SSA-4.

You cannot apply for survivors benefits online. Call Social Security at 800-772-1213 to ask about or launch the application process. 

Keep in mind

  • In almost all circumstances, offspring must be unmarried to collect survivor benefits. There are some narrow exceptions for adults with disabilities who continue to receive “child” benefits based on a late parent’s record.
  • The payment amount for a child beneficiary is subject to the family maximum, the upper limit of what a wage earner’s children, spouse and parents can collectively receive in family or survivor benefits. The maximum generally falls between 150 percent and 180 percent of the late worker’s primary insurance amount, but it can go as high as 188 percent. 

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