My deceased partner is a member of the SSS. His SSS record shows that his designated beneficiaries are his parents. Our minor children were not listed though they were recognized by their father. May I know if this will affect my children’s claim for death benefits? By the way, my partner never married and he had no other children.
Our Social Security Law explicitly states that “upon the death of a member who has paid at least thirty-six (36) monthly contributions prior to the semester of death, his primary beneficiaries shall be entitled to the monthly pension: Provided, That if he has no primary beneficiaries, his secondary beneficiaries shall be entitled to a lump-sum benefit equivalent to thirty-six (36) times the monthly pension” (Sec. 13, Republic Act (RA) 8282).
Furthermore, the law itself defines and classifies the beneficiaries of an SSS member. It states:
“Beneficiaries—The dependent spouse until he or she remarries, the dependent legitimate, legitimated or legally adopted and illegitimate children, who shall be the primary beneficiaries of the member… In their absence, the dependent parents who shall be the secondary beneficiaries of the member. In the absence of all of the foregoing, any other person designated by the member as his/her secondary beneficiary.” (Sec. 8 (k), Id.)
From the foregoing, it is clear that there is an order of preference among the beneficiaries. On top of the order are the primary beneficiaries, namely, the dependent spouse and children, are the ones entitled to receive the death benefits accruing from the death of an SSS member. It is only when there are no primary beneficiaries that the secondary beneficiaries, the dependent parents in particular, are entitled to receive the death benefits. Lastly, the designated secondary beneficiary of a member can only claim in the absence of a dependent spouse, children and parents. Hence, while the law allows an SSS member to designate his beneficiaries, it does not mean that his designation would override or defeat the right of beneficiaries instituted by law. Rather, the designation merely supplements when there are no other dependent beneficiaries.
The same rule applies to your case. Considering that your partner has no legal spouse and he recognized your children, their right to the death benefits accruing from the death of their father cannot be defeated by their paternal grandparents. As primary beneficiaries, their right is superior to the grandparents who are only entitled to receive the death benefits in the former’s absence. Neither may the grandparents rely on the designation made by your partner, as the right of a designated beneficiary only takes effect in the absence of all other beneficiaries.
We hope that we were able to shed light on the matter. Please bear in mind that this opinion is based solely on the facts you presented and our appreciation of the same. Our opinion may vary should circumstances change.
Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org