Notify Social Security of the Death Immediately
If the deceased received Social Security benefits at the time of his or her death, it’s important to notify Social Security of the death immediately.
If you receive a benefit check for the month that the beneficiary died, or any month after the death, return the checks to Social Security. Do not cash benefit checks for a deceased individual.
If monthly benefits were paid by direct deposit, notify the bank or financial institution where the beneficiary’s funds were deposited. It’s important to stop any funds received for the month of death or later and return them to Social Security as soon as possible.
Social Security Lump Sum Death Benefit
A surviving spouse or child of the deceased may be eligible to receive a one-time lump-sum death benefit of $255 from Social Security. The lump sum may go to the surviving spouse who was living in the same household of the deceased, or may even go to the surviving spouse if they lived apart, under certain circumstances. If there is no eligible surviving spouse, the death benefit may go to the worker’s child or children.
To receive a lump-sum death benefit, the survivor:
- Must have been receiving benefits on the worker’s record or
- Must have become eligible for benefits on the worker’s death
Survivors have up to two years from the date of death to apply for the lump-sum death benefit.
Social Security Survivor’s Benefits
Under some circumstances, a surviving spouse, a divorced spouse, or a minor or disabled child of the deceased is eligible to receive survivor’s benefits from Social Security. The qualifications for receiving survivor’s benefits are complex, but you can review eligibility requirements and benefit amounts at the Social Security Survivor’s Benefits Planner webpage.
The dollar amount is based on the income of the deceased at the time of death. A widow or widower who has reached full retirement age may be eligible to receive 100% of the benefit amount, while a younger widow may receive from 71.5% to 99% of the basic amount. The individual receiving the benefit must meet fairly strict income requirements.
The survivor’s benefit is paid in a monthly check or direct deposit similar to a standard Social Security benefit.
Apply for Social Security Benefits
If you are eligible for survivor’s benefits or a lump-sum death benefit, you won’t receive those benefits automatically. You must apply for the benefits with Social Security. Contact your local Social Security office, or call the automated telephone service at 1-800-772-1213, to get information and begin the process of applying for eligible Social Security benefits.