Social Security for Minor Children, Part 2

If you have minor children at home, Social Security benefits may be available to them. Know these rules and get maximum benefits for your family.

If you’re retirement age and drawing social security yourself, any minor children in your home may also qualify for social security benefits. Here are a few specific situations you might encounter and the rules surrounding them.

What if a parent is deceased?

The children of deceased workers, and the surviving spouse who is caring for the children, are all eligible to receive a benefit of 75% of the worker’s PIA, subject to the family maximum. The children’s benefits may continue to age 18 (19 if in high school); the caretaker’s benefit may continue until the youngest child turns 16.

When the surviving spouse turns 60, she becomes eligible for her own survivor benefit. If she claims the benefit at 60, it will be reduced to 71.5%; if she claims it at her full retirement age, she will receive the full amount, or 100% of the late worker’s PIA.

What about grandchildren?

More common than retirees with minor children are retirees caring for grandchildren. Can you get Social Security benefits for your grandchild?

Generally no, unless you have adopted the child or the child’s parents are deceased or disabled. If the parents are deceased or disabled you should talk to SSA about available benefits for the child, either on your record or on one of the parent’s records.

What about adult disabled children?

Children who become disabled in childhood may receive benefits on a parent’s record after the age of 18. These benefits may continue as long as the child is disabled.

Note, again, that the parent on whose record the benefit is being paid must have filed for his benefit. If, when a disabled child turns 18 the parent is not yet eligible for Social Security retirement benefits (or wants to delay filing), the child may be eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Then when the parent files, the child can switch to the Social Security dependent benefit off the parent’s record, if it is higher.

Once again, it is generally not worth filing early to entitle your children to benefits. This is true even if they’re disabled.

However, this is only a rule of thumb. Consult your financial advisor and review your entire retirement plan before making any Social Security claiming decisions.

Parents as representative payees

If your child is eligible for Social Security benefits, you, or someone you appoint, will serve as a representative payee. The representative payee manages the child’s Social Security benefits and ensures they are used for the child’s personal care and well-being. Once the child’s day-to-day needs for food and shelter are met, you can use the money to attend to their other needs. See SSA publication no. 05-10076 “A Guide for Representative Payees.”


Mark Singer, CFP® lives in Swampscott and has been in the financial industry for over three decades. If you have any questions contact him at [email protected]. To learn how to maximize your Social Security benefits and enjoy your retirement journey, subscribe to The Retirement Authority YouTube channel at The content was developed in conjunction with Elaine Floyd, CFP®.