While you might think of Social Security as a retirement program for seniors, the government-sponsored fund supports adults and children with disabilities as well. In addition, Social Security payments may be transferrable to children if the working parent passes away. Here are the circumstances in which an adult child can get a parent’s Social Security and how to prepare for the care of your disabled adult child. Social security is only one of many things you may want to consider when thinking through retirement for you, your parent or your child. If you have questions, consider working with a financial advisor.
Can an Adult Child Get a Parent’s Social Security?
An adult child can get a parent’s Social Security in select situations. Typically, a working parent’s Social Security payments don’t transfer to adult children. However, if the adult child fulfills certain stipulations and has a deceased parent who was receiving Social Security, they are eligible to get their parent’s Social Security.
Social Security Benefits for Adult Children
If an adult child is eighteen and still finishing high school, they are eligible for their deceased parent’s Social Security benefits. The monthly payments end when the child finishes school or two months after they turn nineteen, whichever happens first.
In addition, an adult child qualifies for their deceased parent’s Social Security if the child is disabled due to a condition that began before age twenty-two. The adult child will receive payments for the rest of their life or until the disability no longer prevents them or from working.
Remember, an adult child cannot receive a living parent’s Social Security payments. If an adult child’s parent passes away, the specific situations explained above are the sole scenarios in which the child can receive Social Security benefits a parent was formerly collecting. Furthermore, the child must be unmarried or married to a person who is disabled in either scenario.
How Much Will an Adult Child Receive?
A worker’s Social Security payment amount depends on how much they paid into the system and when they stopped working. As a result, an adult child will receive a specific amount based on their parent’s work history and retirement age. The Social Security Administration (SSA) reduces payments to adult children by 25%. Therefore, an adult child receives 75% of their parent’s Social Security benefit.
Multiple children can receive benefits, but the SSA usually caps the total a family receives at 188% of the parent’s benefit. Therefore, if the parent leaves behind more than two disabled children, they may each receive a benefit lower than 75%.
Social Security Benefits for Surviving Children
Generally, parents need to work for at least ten years to qualify for Social Security payments. This number is due to the credit system the SSA implemented decades ago. Specifically, a worker can earn up to four credits annually through their monetary earnings. You receive one credit per $1,640 earned in any given year, up to four credits annually. Credits don’t need to be purchased; instead, the government automatically counts credits toward each worker as they earn wages.
Generally, workers must earn forty credits to garner Social Security benefits for themselves or their children. However, survivors can receive benefits if their parents earned at least six credits (one and a half years of work) in the last three years before passing away.
How to Apply for Social Security Benefits
Signing up an adult child online will make receiving Social Security payments a smooth process. Parents can help their disabled adult child apply for Social Security benefits on the SSA’s website.
The SSA requires the child’s birth certificate and the parent’s and child’s Social Security numbers to grant benefits. When applying for disability benefits, you’ll need to provide medical documentation regarding the adult child’s disability. On the other hand, when applying for survivor benefits, the family must provide the parent’s death certificate.
How to Plan Ahead
Planning ahead for an adult child’s needs is crucial. While your adult child may receive your Social Security payments in the future, you can do plenty in the present to ensure their quality of life going forward. Some of the programs you can join or actions you can take are:
- SSI Program: You can enroll your disabled child in the federal Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program for consistent monthly income and Medicaid, a government-sponsored health insurance program. Your child will receive support from these programs for life unless income from other sources disqualifies them.
- Special Needs Trust: Fortunately, you can set up a special needs trust to provide your children with income that doesn’t make them ineligible for government assistance. Your child can’t use funds from the special needs trust for food or housing. Instead, they can spend it on other expenses, such as medical costs outside of Medicaid’s coverage, recreational activities and electronic devices.
- ABLE Account: Likewise, you can set up an Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) account to complement the special needs trust. Your child can use their ABLE account for expenses the special needs trust can’t cover. For instance, funds in the account can pay for education, housing and transportation.
- Power of Attorney: Give a trusted friend or family member power of attorney for your child. Doing so prevents the possibility of a court appointing someone for conservatorship or guardianship later.
- Letter of Intent: You can write a letter of intent or guidance on your child’s behalf. While not a legally binding document, the letter will help future caregivers serve your child’s needs and ensure they receive excellent care.
The Bottom Line
An adult child can get a parent’s Social Security if the parent passes away and the child is either disabled or finishing high school. A disabled child’s Social Security benefits last as long as the disability persists. While workers usually only receive Social Security after ten years of employment, surviving children might receive benefits if their parents worked for at least one and a half years in the last three years before passing away.
Because caring for adult children with disabilities is complex and expensive, it’s essential to set up a stable financial and living situation for your child that will last after your death. For instance, enrolling your child in government assistance programs and setting up financial accounts specifically for people with disabilities will ensure a high quality of life for your child for the decades to come.
Tips for Retirement Planning
- If you’re thinking about your own retirement or helping a parent through theirs, proper planning can go a long way to making sure you have the money you need when the time comes. Working with a financial advisor can help you properly plan and prepare for retirement. Finding a financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three vetted financial advisors who serve your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
- Social Security is an excellent way to support yourself in retirement and your adult child living with a disability. Therefore, maximizing your payment is crucial. Working for at least 35 years, retiring at age 70 and boosting your employment income can help you improve your Social Security benefit.
- Signing up on the SSA’s website can help you and your child receive benefits as quickly as possible. Here’s a guide on how to create and use a My Social Security Account.
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