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My daughter’s father died in a horrible accident

I have an 8-year-old daughter with an ex-boyfriend. 

He recently passed away in a horrible accident. He wasn’t on her birth certificate, but he helped pay for school things, and bought her anything she said she wanted.

He has an adult daughter from a previous relationship. His family doesn’t know my daughter exists. He had a strained relationship with his family and, perhaps for that reason, he did not tell them. 

Can I apply for survivor benefits on her behalf? I know by doing that I’ll have to talk to his family, and likely allow them to visit my daughter if they’re interested in doing so. 

I don’t want his life-insurance money — if he didn’t leave any to our daughter — but survivor benefits would help pay for school things that he usually helped with.

It would be wise to hire an estate lawyer to help you in this process. The statute of limitations varies by state after probate has been settled, so time is not your side. It’s a stressful process, and you could risk putting it off indefinitely if you don’t get the ball in motion today.

The term “survivor benefit” usually refers to a spouse who can claim 100% of their spouse’s Social Security, assuming it’s a higher amount, after their death. Your daughter, as an heir, may be entitled to certain benefits and a share of an inheritance, assuming you can prove paternity.

“Within a family, a child can receive up to half of the parent’s full retirement or disability benefits. If a child receives survivors benefits, they can get up to 75% of the deceased parent’s basic Social Security benefit,” according to this detailed guide from the Social Security Administration.

If your daughter does not have a disability, your SSA survivor benefits will stop when they turn 16, the SSA says. If your daughter has a qualifying disability, however, your benefits can continue if you exercise parental control and responsibility for your child. 

There are, of course, scenarios where your daughter may be excluded — if he left a will, specifically excluding your child. But even if he died intestate — without a will — or even if he left a will and never mentioned your child, you could certainly have a claim on his estate.

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