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How Social Security Can Help You When A Family Member Dies

Social Security should be notified as soon as possible when a person dies.  In most cases, the direct disposal establishment will report the person's death to Social Security.  You will need to furnish the direct disposer with the deceased's social security number so he or she can make the report.

Some of the deceased's family members may be able to receive Social Security benefits if the deceased person worked long enough under Social Security to qualify for benefits.  You should get in touch with Social Security as soon as you can to make sure the family receives all of the benefits to which it may be entitled.  Please read the following information carefully to learn what benefits may be available.

  • A one-time payment of $255 can be paid to the surviving spouse if he or she was living with the deceased or, if living apart, was receiving certain Social Security benefits on the deceased's record.  If there is no surviving spouse, the payment is made to a child who is eligible for benefits on the deceased's record in the month of death.
  • Certain family members can apply to receive monthly benefits, including:
    • A widow or widower age 60 or older (age 50 or older if disabled);
    • A surviving spouse 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 age 18 or 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.
      • Parents, age 62 or older, who were dependent on the deceased for at least half of their support; and
      • A surviving divorced spouse under certain circumstances.

If the deceased was receiving Social Security benefits, you must return the benefit received for the month of death and any later months.  For example, if the person dies in July, you must return the benefit paid in August.  If benefits were paid by direct deposit, contact the bank or other financial institution.  Request that any funds received for the month of death or later be returned to Social Security.  If the benefits were paid by check, do not cash any checks received for the month in which the person dies or later.  Return the checks to Social Security as soon as possible.

However, eligible family members may be able to receive death benefits for the month in which the beneficiary died.

Social Security

Contacting Social Security

In addition to using Social Security's website, you can call them toll-free at 1-800-772-1213.   We can answer specific questions from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. ​Monday through Friday. 

They can provide information by automated phone service 24 hours a day.  You can use the automated response system to tell Social Security a new address or request a replacement Medicare card.  If you are deaf or hard of hearing, you may call our TTY number, 1-800-325-0778.

We treat all calls confidentially.  We also want to make sure you receive accurate and courteous service.  That is why we have a second
​Social Security representative monitor some telephone calls.

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