Frequently Asked Questions



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Social Security Death Benefits

Who usually reports the death of a person to the Social Security Administration (SSA)?

In most cases, the funeral director makes the report to the SSA, using the deceased person’s Social Security Number provided by the family.

Who is eligible to receive Social Security benefits when a person dies?

Survivors who may be eligible to receive Social Security benefits include:

  • A widow or widower age 60 or older (age 50 or older if disabled).
  • A widow or widower at any age who is caring for the deceased’s child under age 16 or disabled.
  • An unmarried child of the deceased who is younger than age 18 (or up to age 19 if he or she is a full-time student in an elementary or secondary school); or age 18 or older with a disability that began before age 22.
  • A stepchild, grandchild, step-grandchild or adopted child under certain circumstances.
  • Parents, age 62 or older, who were dependent on the deceased for at least half of their support.
  • A surviving divorced spouse (under certain circumstances).

What forms or information do I need to apply for Social Security survivor’s benefits?

If you are not already receiving Social Security benefits, it is important to apply promptly. Benefits may be paid from the time of application, rather than the time of death. You can apply by telephone or at any Social Security office.

You will need to provide the following information to apply for survivor’s benefits:

  • Proof of death, either from a funeral home or death certificate
  • Your Social Security number
  • The deceased worker’s Social Security number
  • Your birth certificate
  • Your marriage certificate (if applying as a widow or widower)
  • Your divorce papers (if applying as a divorced widow or widower)
  • Dependent children’s Social Security numbers and birth certificates
  • Deceased worker's W-2 forms or federal self-employment tax return for the most recent year
  • The name of your bank and your account number so benefits can be deposited directly into your account

Who is eligible to receive a Social Security lump-sum death payment?

A surviving spouse or child may receive a special lump-sum death payment of $255 if they meet certain requirements. If the surviving spouse was living in the same household with the worker when he or she died, the surviving spouse is eligible to receive the payment.

If they were living apart, the surviving spouse can still receive the lump-sum if, during the month the worker died, he or she was already receiving benefits on the worker’s record; or became eligible for benefits upon the worker’s death.

If there is no surviving spouse, the lump-sum payment will go to the worker’s child or children, if during the month the worker died, the child/children were already receiving benefits on the worker’s record; or became eligible for benefits upon the worker’s death.

For more information, contact your local Social Security office or call call (800)772-1213 (TTY (800)325-0778).