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Social Security Survivor’s Benefit and Adoption

There are unfortunate times where one individual who has become fully insured for social security benefits passes away or gives up a child for adoption. In such cases, however, the Social Security Administration has enacted rules to pass on the benefit to the children. But exactly what happens when the child receiving a benefit is going to be adopted? Does the benefit simply end because he or she now has a new parent? Potential adoptive parents should speak to an attorney if they are considering adoption of a child receiving social security benefits.

The “survivor” benefit they are receiving from their insured natural parent will not be terminated because of adoption. Note that in this case, the child must already be receiving or have applied for the benefit. This is because the determination of entitlement to benefits relies on dependency on the insured person. Dependency on the insured is automatic if the child was a natural child of the deceased insured. However, where adoption is present during the insured’s lifetime, it depends on when the child was living with or was supported by the insured at the following times: 1) when the child applied to SSA, 2) when the insured died, or 3) during the time the insured was disabled that lasted until they became entitled to benefits. If at any point during those three periods, the child was living with the insured, or if the insured was contributing to their welfare, then they were still dependent on the insured, even if the child would be eventually adopted.

However, adoption after application for benefits will automatically make the child dependent on the insured. Similarly, if the child was adopted after the beginning of a period where the insured became disabled and were disabled until the insured became entitled to benefits.

The other requirements to a child’s benefits are their relationship to the insured (natural child, legally adopted child, stepchild, grandchild/stepgrandchild, or equitably adopted child), application to the SSA, unmarried status, age under 18 or disabled or fulltime student. These types of benefits are typically only available to the child until they turn 18. There are other benefits that may be affected by adoption, such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI). There are many rules and regulations surrounding SSA and SSI benefits and adoption. Please seek the advice of an attorney if you are in a situation where you are adopting a child receiving social security benefits.