You asked whether, under Missouri law, two children would be entitled to inherit from
their natural father, the deceased number holder, after his parental rights had been
terminated, and therefore be eligible to receive survivor's Social Security benefits
on his account. Based on our analysis of the applicable law, it appears that the children
would likely not be entitled to intestate inheritance from the deceased number holder
under Missouri law, but would still be deemed to be his dependent children for purposes
of entitlement to survivor's benefits pursuant to the Social Security Act.
The documentation you provided with your request indicates that the children in question
are Aimee R~, date of birth November 3, 1992, and Alyssa S~, date of birth April 24,
2000. It is uncontested that the number holder, Timothy S~, is the natural father
of both children. On August 17, 2005, the Juvenile Division of the Circuit Court of
Iron County, Missouri, entered an order which declared Mr. S~ was the natural father
of both children and terminated his parental rights with respect to both children.
In the same order, the Court also terminated the parental rights of the children's
natural mother, Danielle S~. Mr. S~ died domiciled in Missouri on January 11, 2006.
Both children have lived with Joe and Billie R~ since December 2003, but have not
Section 202(d)(1) of the Social Security Act (the Act) establishes the criteria for
entitlement to child's insurance benefits. This section provides that every child
(as defined in section 216(e)) of an individual who dies fully insured under the Act
is entitled to benefits if the child applies for benefits, is unmarried and under
18 (or a full-time elementary or secondary school student and under age 19), or is
under a disability that began before age 22, and was dependent on the deceased at
the time of death. Id.
Thus, if Aimee R~ and Alyssa S~ are each the child of Mr. S~, as the term "child"
is defined in the Act, are unmarried and under age 18 or under a disability that began
before age 22, and were dependent on Mr. S~ at the time of his death, they would be
entitled to receive survivor benefits on Mr. S~'s account.
It appears that Aimee and Alyssa are each a "child" of Mr. S~ as defined in the Social
Security Act. Pursuant to the Act, the term "child" includes the child or legally
adopted child of an individual. Social Security Act § 216(e). The Act directs that
in determining whether an applicant is the "child" of an insured individual, the Commissioner
shall apply such law as would be applied in determining the devolution of intestate
personal property by the courts of the state in which the insured individual was domiciled
at the time of his death. Social Security Act § 216(h)(2)(A). An applicant who is
a "child" pursuant to state intestate succession laws and would take intestate personal
property as a "child" shall be deemed the "child" of the deceased number holder under
the Social Security Act. Id. Our research indicates that Aimee and Alyssa would likely not be able to inherit
from Mr. S~. While Missouri statutes are silent on the subject, the Missouri Court
of Appeals has noted that termination of parental rights deprives a child of his "future
rights to support, affiliation and inheritance" from that parent. See In re in the Interest of R.A.S., 826 S.W.2d 397, 401 (Mo. App. W.D. 1992).
However, an applicant who is not (and is not deemed to be) the "child" of the insured
individual under section 216(h)(2), but who is the natural son or daughter of the
insured individual, may be deemed to be the "child" of such insured individual under
certain circumstances. Social Security Act § 216(h)(3). In the case of a deceased
individual, the son or daughter is deemed to be the insured individual's "child" if,
inter alia, the insured was decreed by a court to be the mother or father of the applicant and
the court decree or order was entered before the death of the insured individual.
Social Security Act § 216(h)(3)(C)(i)(II). We believe it is reasonable to conclude
that Aimee and Alyssa would each be deemed to be a "child" of Mr. S~ pursuant to section
216(h)(3)(C)(i)(II) of the Act because the Juvenile Division of the District Court
of Iron County, Missouri, decreed Mr. S~ to be the natural father of both children
in an order dated August 17, 2005, prior to Mr. S~'s death on January 11, 2006.
Finally, under the Act, Aimee and Alyssa would be deemed "dependent" upon Mr. S~ for
purposes of entitlement to child's benefits. Section 202(d)(3) of the Act provides
that any child who meets the tests in sections 216(h)(2) or (h)(3) "shall be deemed
to be the legitimate child of such individual." Pursuant to section 202(d)(3), a child
is deemed dependent upon the insured individual, even if that parent was not living
with or contributing to the support of such child, as long as 1) such child is the
"legitimate" or adopted child of such individual, and 2) has not been adopted by some
other individual. Because Aimee and Alyssa meet the requirements to be deemed the
"legitimate" children of Mr. S~ under section 216(h)(3)(C)(i)(II), and have not been
adopted by another individual, we believe that they would be considered to be deemed
dependent on Mr. S~ and therefore entitled to survivor benefits.
In summary, while Aimee and Alyssa would likely not be eligible for intestate inheritance
from Mr. S~ under Missouri law, they are each a "child" of Mr. S~ pursuant to section
216(h)(3), and were deemed dependent upon Mr. S~ at the time of his death pursuant
to section 202(d)(3), thus satisfying the requirements of section 202(d)(1) for entitlement
to child's survivor benefits under the Social Security Act.
Frank V. S~ III
Chief Counsel, Region VII
Richard N. S~
Assistant Regional Counsel