Navigating the ins and outs of Social Security benefits can be a heavy lift, especially when the death of a loved one is a part of the equation. We’ve outlined a few of the questions we are most often asked below as well as direct contact information for the Social Security offices.
Who notifies Social Security of a loved one’s death?
Social Security should be contacted as soon as possible when a person in your family passes. Usually, the funeral director will report the person’s death to Social Security. You should give the funeral home the deceased person’s Social Security number if you want them to make the report.
What are the death benefits to surviving spouses or dependent children?
Social Security is a key source of financial security to widowed spouses in old age. About 7.5 million individuals age 60 and older receive benefits based, at least in part, on a deceased spouse’s work record. When a retired worker dies, the surviving spouse gets an amount equal to the worker’s full retirement benefit.
A widow(er), at full retirement age or older, generally receives 100 percent of the worker’s basic benefit amount. A widow(er), age 60 or older, but under full retirement age, receives about 71-99 percent of the worker’s basic benefit amount.
Children of the deceased generally receive Social Security benefits until age 18. But if they’re full-time students at an elementary or secondary school, they can continue to receive benefits either until they graduate or until two months after they turn 19, whichever comes first. An eligible child is typically the biological child of a deceased or disabled worker.
Do you have to pay back Social Security when someone dies?
When a person dies on the first day of a month or later, but before their regular payment date, this creates an underpayment. The reason that Social Security withholds payment in these cases or requires the bank to return the funds if the deposit has already been made, is because the person(s) entitled to the underpayment is determined by law. And, the person with access to the deceased person’s bank account may or may not be the person legally entitled to the underpayment.
Underpayments are payable in the following order (https://www.ssa.gov/OP_Home/handbook/handbook.19/handbook-1902.html):
A. The widow(er) of the underpaid person if:
1.Living in the same household with the underpaid person at the time of death; or
2.Entitled to a monthly benefit on the same earnings record as the underpaid person for the month of death.
B. The child or children of the underpaid person entitled to monthly benefits on the same earnings record as the underpaid person for the month of death. If there is more than one entitled child, payment is made in equal parts to each child;
C. The parent or parents of the underpaid person entitled to monthly benefits on the same earnings record as the underpaid person for the month of death. If there is more than one entitled parent, payment is made in equal parts to each parent;
D. A widow(er) who does not meet the requirements of (A);
E. A child or children who do not meet the requirements of (B). If there is more than one child, payment is made in equal parts to each child;
F. A parent or parents who do not meet the requirements of (C). If there is more than one parent, payment is made in equal parts to each parent; and
G. The legal representative of the underpaid person’s estate.
The form SSA-1724 required to complete and submit is necessary for Social Security to determine which person(s) are legally entitled to claim any underpayment due to a deceased beneficiary.
How much does Social Security pay for a funeral?
The Social Security survivors benefits program pays a special one-time lump sum amount (called the “Death Benefit”) of $255 to help pay for funeral or burial costs for anyone who had qualified for Social Security benefits.
Planning for survivors:
Use Social Security’s Survivors Planner to look at survivors benefits from two sides:
- how your family members are protected if you die, and
- how you may qualify as a survivor on someone else’s Social Security record.
This protection is particularly important for young families with children.
Contacting Social Security
The most convenient way to contact Social Security anytime, anywhere is to visit www.socialsecurity.gov. There, one can: apply for benefits; open a my Social Security account, which can be used to review one’s Social Security Statement, verify earnings, print a benefit verification letter, change one’s direct deposit information, request a replacement Medicare card, and get a replacement SSA-1099/1042S; obtain valuable information; find publications; get answers to frequently asked questions; and much more. If you don’t have access to the internet, automated services are available by telephone, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call toll-free at 1-800-772-1213 or 1-800-325-0778.