Social Security death benefits for minors are monthly dividends given to those under the age of 18 (or older depending on the circumstances) whose parent or guardian has died. The funds dispersed are a portion of the social security credits earned by the deceased person throughout his or her working career. Also called survivors benefits, these same funds can be given to minors whose parents or guardians are also disabled or retired. The purposes of this article, however, will focus on the benefits given to the dependents of a parent (or grandparent in some cases) who has died.
A Little History
The original Social Security Act of 1935 did not allow for monthly awards of survivors benefits. However, from 1937 to 1939, survivors was given a Lump Sum Death Benefit after the person's death that was 3.5 percent of his or her covered earnings or roughly $96.93. Monthly payments to survivors started a year later, and was offered in addition to the lump sum benefit.
How Much do the Minors Receive?
Each child's death benefits depend on how long the deceased person worked. The longer he or she was employed, the more Social Security tax credits were given. Each child can receive 75 percent of the basic benefit. However, there is a cap. If the surviving spouse also receives a survivors benefit, each of the child's benefits will be reduced. The maximum benefit allowed per family falls between 150 percent and 180 percent of the deceased person's basic benefit amount. If the family total is more than this amount, each person's monthly allowance will be decreased. Remember, the children of the individual who died can also be eligible for the one-time Lump Sum Death Benefit (in 2008 it was $255) if the spouse of the deceased person is also dead. This amount would be split among the surviving children.
Eligibility Requirements for Social Security Death Benefits for Minors
For a child to receive the survivors benefits, he or she must meet several criteria, including being:
- The biological, adopted, dependent stepchild or in some cases, the grandchild of adult who died.
- Under 18 unless he or she is a full-time student (no higher than grade 12) then, the benefits can be awarded to those 18 and 19.
- Older than 18 if the child is disabled, but the disability must have started before his or her 22nd birthday.
- The child of a deceased parent who was entitled to Social Security benefits.
Grandchildren who are legal dependents of the deceased person may be eligible for death benefits. Also, children who already receive survivors benefits and are adopted into another family are still able to receive their monthly allowance.
How to Apply for Survivors Benefits
The best way to apply for these benefits is to go directly to your local Social Security office. You will need to bring the following pieces of information with you so the child can receive the full benefits due to him or her:
- Death certificate or notice from funeral home
- Social Security number of the person who died as well as the child who will receive the benefits
- The child's birth certificate
- The deceased individual's W-2 forms, or federal self-employment tax return, for the most recent year
- The name of the child's bank, as well as account numbers for direct deposit
While it may seem like an inconvenience to have to deal with Social Security after the death of a loved one, the hard work will be worth it for your child. If you are a parent or guardian, you may want to make sure you are already paying into Social Security in case your family needs it later on. .