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Social Security benefits for a child

A minor child’s Social Security payments must be

A minor child’s Social Security payments must be used for his or her benefit. Credit: iStock

I'm 64 years old, collecting Social Security since I turned 62. My daughter was 14 at that time and I've also been collecting Social Security benefit payments for her. I've saved her payments for college in a savings account in her name. But now I've heard that if you save any of your child's benefit payments, when she turns 18 Social Security will ask for them back. Is that true?

Not to worry. This is your daughter's money, and she isn't required to return it.

When she turns 18, Social Security will send you a form letter telling you that because she's now legally an adult, any future benefit payments that she may be entitled to receive will be made directly to her.

The letter also says that if you've conserved any of her past benefits, you should return them to the agency so that it can reissue them to her directly. But you can disregard that instruction because you've already put her past benefits into an account in her name, says Linda Lauria, a Social Security Administration spokeswoman.

For readers who may not know, unmarried minor children can qualify for benefit payments based on a parent's earnings, if the parent is entitled to Social Security and is retired, disabled or deceased. A child's benefits are always paid to a "representative payee" -- typically, a parent, grandparent, or guardian.

The benefit ends when the child turns 18 unless he or she is a student, or is disabled. Full-time high school students continue receiving benefits until age 19 and two months, or until graduation, whichever comes first. The benefits of a disabled child continue indefinitely if the disability began before he or she was 22 years old.

The bottom line A minor child's Social Security payments must be used for his or her benefit.

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