Social Security Death Benefits

When a person dies who has earned Social Security benefits through his or her work history, that person’s family members may be eligible for certain survivors benefits. In most cases, these benefits would go to a surviving spouse and/or children of the person who has died.

Who is eligible for death benefits?

  • Children of the deceased who are under 18 are always eligible for Social Security benefits. (Children that are full-time students are eligible up to age 19.) In addition, children over 18 with a disability that began before age 22 are eligible.
  • The spouse of the deceased is usually entitled to certain benefits. If you are 60 or over, or you are caring for the deceased’s children who are under 16, you are eligible for benefits. (If you are a disabled spouse, you can receive benefits if you are age 50 or older, regardless of whether you have children.) In addition to potential monthly benefits, a one-time death benefit of $255 is available for a surviving spouse. (Note that if the deceased was divorced, a former spouse may also be eligible for some of these benefits.)
  • Parents of the deceased may be eligible if they are over 62 and were dependent on the deceased for at least half of their living expenses.
  • Other family including stepchildren and grandchildren may also be eligible for certain benefits.

Note that when a person dies, their Social Security payments should stop. If the payments do not stop, family members can NOT use this money. The Social Security Administration must be contacted to report the death. Once this is done, relatives of the deceased can apply for the Social Security survivors benefits they are eligible for.

If you want to know if you are eligible for benefits, or if you are concerned about the benefits your family would receive if you die, you can contact the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213 or visit your local Social Security office.

You may also use the phone number above if you need to report a death; you can NOT report a death online. (In most cases, funeral homes will report a death to the Social Security Administration if they are given the deceased’s Social Security number.)