There are many issues to consider when deciding whether to legally adopt a child of a dead parent, from long-term financial stability to the stresses of blended families. Considerations about maintaining a child’s Social Security survivor’s benefits shouldn’t be one of them. Because the Social Security Administration considers it to be its responsibility to provide survivor benefits to qualifying children of deceased parents, adopting a child who receives disability based on a deceased father’s Social Security contributions won’t affect the child’s benefits.
Adoption and Social Security Survivor's Benefits
A child who receives survivor benefits after losing his father doesn’t maintain those benefits only so long as he remains an orphan. When a guardian legally adopts a child who receives Social Security benefits, the new parents must notify the administration of the child’s new name, the adoptive parents’ name and address and the date the court-issued adoption decree. The administration alters its records to pay the child benefits -- or makes an adoptive parent a custodian of funds -- to the child’s new family. The child doesn’t lose benefits in the adoption.
Qualifying for Survivor's Benefits
A child with a dead parent isn’t automatically entitled to Social Security survivor benefits. Parents must work at a position that contributes to Social Security’s funds -- railroad and government jobs provide alternate pension plans, so these workers’ families don’t receive SSA survivor benefits. The child must be unmarried and less than 18, or 19 if still enrolled in high school. An adopted child may work and maintain benefits, although in some situations, her benefit may be reduced with her earnings.
Amount of Survivor Benefits
A single child may be entitled to up to 75 percent of his deceased father’s regular Social Security retirement pension, which is usually about 50 percent of his weekly wage. A single family may only receive up to 180 percent of a deceased beneficiary’s retirement benefit, and that limit may be as low as 150 percent, depending on family size. Because of this, if a deceased father has more than two qualifying surviving children, their benefits may be reduced to less than 75 percent of his retirement benefit.
Benefits for Adopted Children
Children who are legally adopted may qualify to receive benefits if their adoptive parents die, and receive benefits as if they’re the beneficiary’s naturally born children. A child adopted by a widow who receives a survivor benefit from a husband who died before she adopted them is eligible to receive survivor benefits based on the husband’s retirement benefit.