Here’s the general rule: if a parent dies, the surviving spouse may be eligible for benefits if he or she is caring for a the deceased’s child and the child is under 16 years old or disabled. These are called Mother’s and Father’s benefits. See 20 CFR Section 404.339 for more information.
This is a little known subset of Social Security benefits. Mother’s and Father’s benefits are separate from the survivor’s benefits the child may be entitled to due to the death of a parent. However, these benefits end sooner than many people expect.
There are a number of ways these benefits may stop:
- You remarry. The exception to this is if you remarry someone entitled to old-age, disability, wife’s, husband’s, widow’s, widower’s, father’s, mother’s, parent’s or disabled child’s benefits. See. 20 CFR 404.341.
- The child turns 16 (if the child is not disabled).
- The child is 16 or older and Social Security decides that the child is no longer disabled (you do not actively supervise his or her activities and you do not make important decisions about is or her needs; or, it is not necessary for you to perform personal services for him or her such as dressing, feeding, and managing money that the child cannot do alone because of a disability). See 20 CFR 404.348.
- The child is no longer in your care. See 20 CFR 404.349.
For more information see 20 CFR 404.339.
I thought children could get benefits until age 18 or 19?
Yes, that is true. Children’s benefits due to a death of a parent continue until age 18 or 19 (depending on whether the child is in school). However, mother’s or father’s benefits end when the child turns 16. See 20 CFR 404.350.
Note: while the mother’s or father’s benefits may have ended, the child may still be eligible for children’s benefits for a few more years.