What Happens After A Social Security Beneficiary Passes Away?

When Congress created Social Security in 1935, the program was intended as a means of economic security for retirees aged 65 and over. The Social Security Administration can assist families of a deceased beneficiary.

Reporting a Social Security Beneficiary’s Passing

Notifying Social Security of a beneficiary’s passing should be done promptly. Such reports can be made by calling 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) or in-person at the local Social Security office. Such notification cannot be handled online. Usually, funeral directors take of this notification on the family’s behalf. The funeral director will need to know the deceased person’s Social Security number to report the beneficiary’s passing.

What Happens to the Beneficiary’s Most Recent Social Payment

It helps to understand how Social Security benefits are paid before learning what happens to the last payment the beneficiary received. Social Security benefits are paid for the previous month. Social Security regulations require that a beneficiary live an entire month to receive benefits for that month.

Here’s an example to clarify the rule. If a Social Security payment arrived on February 4th, that payment was the decedent’s benefit for January. The family could keep the payment if the beneficiary passed on February 1st. In contrast, those funds have to be returned to Social Security if the decedent passed on January 30th because the beneficiary didn’t live the entire month.

When funds have to be returned, the family should have the bank return electronic payments. Benefits received in the mail should not be cashed. Social Security expects the family to mail back the original benefit check.

Lump-sum Social Security Death Benefit

For beneficiaries who received benefits based on their own record, Social Security provides a one-time death benefit of $255 to the beneficiary’s spouse if the spouse was living with the beneficiary at the time of death. In some cases, a spouse who was living apart or a child is eligible to receive the death benefit. Additional information about the death benefit is available online.

Monthly Survivor Benefits

The beneficiary’s passing may qualify certain family members for monthly Social Security benefits. Relatives who may be eligible include a spouse aged 60 or over, a widow or widower of any age who’s raising the deceased person’s minor child, a minor or disabled child, or a parent who was dependent on the beneficiary’s support. Family members who may qualify for survivor benefits should contact the Social Security Administration.