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Will my children receive money from Social Security when I die?

May 14, 2018

Maybe. It depends on how old your children are, and how long you've worked in a job where you've paid Social Security taxes.

To be eligible for Social Security benefits when you die, your children must be age 18 or under (19 if still in high school), and unmarried. However, if an unmarried child is disabled and was disabled before age 22, he or she can qualify for benefits based on your record at any age; benefits for a disabled child may end, though, if your child marries or is no longer considered disabled.

In addition, you must have earned the required number of Social Security credits (generally 40, depending on your age at the time of your death). You earn credits by working in a job where you pay Social Security taxes on your earnings. But under a special rule that applies to young workers, your children may be eligible for benefits if you earned at least six Social Security credits in the three years just before your death. Because you can earn only four credits per year, you must have worked at least a year and a half to earn these six credits.

Your child may be eligible to receive up to 75% of your basic benefit (the benefit that the Social Security Administration calculates you would have received if you had reached full retirement age at the time of your death). Various factors will affect the amount of your child's benefit, including whether other family members are also receiving benefits on your earnings record.

You can find out more about what survivors benefits your child might receive if you die, based on your earnings record, by checking your Social Security Statement. To access your statement, sign up for a my Social Security account at the Social Security Administration's website, Your statement contains a detailed record of your earnings, as well as estimates of retirement, survivor, and disability benefits. If you're not registered for an online account and are not yet receiving benefits, you'll receive a statement in the mail every year, starting at age 60.