Social Security Benefits for Children of Deceased Parents

By Editorial Team

Updated December 05, 2018

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Created by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1935 as one of his "New Deal" programs, Social Security is one of the most important government programs in American history. This social insurance program was established to provide pensions to retired workers age 65 and older that might otherwise have no source of income. According to the PBS network show, NOW, the original act was amended in 1993, extending benefits to the spouses and children of deceased Americans who made contributions.


The Old Age and Survivors Insurance and Disability Insurance is the division of the Social Security Administration that provides benefits to children who survive their parents. According to the Social Security Administration's 2010 Fast Facts and Figures, more than 1.25 million children receive benefits as the result of their parent's death. To qualify, the child must be your biological or adopted child, or your dependent step child.

The parent must have worked at least 10 years and paid some Social Security tax in their lifetime. The child must also be unmarried.The child must be under the age of 18 or up to age 19 if still in high school. Children with disabilities--physical, mental or developmental--can receive survivor benefits as long as the disability was diagnosed before his or her 22nd birthday.


Families seeking to obtain the benefit on behalf of the child must provide a series of verification documents. The application requires the Social Security numbers of both the deceased parent and the child, as well as the child's birth certificate. The guardian must also present proof of the parent's death, usually in the form of a government-issued death certificate.

Monthly Benefits

Social Security direct deposits monthly payments into checking accounts or offers a government-issued debit card. The child's benefits are based on the parent's earnings and future benefit. A child is entitled to 75 percent of the parent's basic Social Security payment. The payments from the deceased family member's account can benefit multiple children and spouses, as long as the total family benefit does not exceed 150 to 180 percent of what the parent would have received if he were still alive.

Lump Sum

In addition to the monthly payment to the child, a lump sum may also be paid out. In the event that the child is orphaned and awarded to a guardian, the child may receive what is known as the Social Security death benefit, which is a payment of $255, as of August 2010. The payment is made as long as there is no surviving spouse and the child meets the survivor benefit eligibility requirements during the month of the parent's death.


President Ronald Reagan amended the Social Security Act in 1983. Discouraged about the financial health of the program, Reagan began taxing benefits paid by the Social Security Administration. The legislation permitted taxes to be collected, as long as the adjusted gross income plus 50 percent of the benefits paid exceeded $25,000. The IRS advises that the amount of income tax that the child must pay on his benefits "depends on the total amount of income and benefits for the taxable year."