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Featured FAQ: Does Social Security Provide Death Benefits?

April 15, 2018

The death of a loved one can put a strain on family finances. Social Security provides two types of death benefits for eligible surviving family members, including a lump sum payment and monthly benefits. Your funeral director can help you by notifying the Social Security office of your loved one’s death and guide you through the application process. 

Who can get a lump-sum death benefit?

Photo credit: Andriy Popov/

Social Security provides a one-time payment of $255 which can be paid to the surviving spouse who is living with the deceased at the time of death. If living separately, the lump-sum is payable if the spouse 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 payment can be made to a dependent child, generally eighteen years and under, who is eligible for benefits on the deceased’s record in the month of death.

If the eligible surviving spouse or child is not currently receiving benefits, they must submit an application for this payment within two years of the date of death.

What happens when a family member dies?

Social Security should be notified as soon as possible when a person dies. Usually, the funeral home will report the person’s death to the Social Security office. Simply provide the deceased person’s Social Security number to your funeral director and he or she will make the notification for you.

It’s important to note that you cannot report a death or apply for survivors benefits online. You can call 1-800-772-1213(TTY 1-800-325-0778) to speak to a Social Security representative from 7 AM to 7 PM Monday through Friday or visit your local Social Security office. An appointment is not required; however, it may reduce the time you spend waiting to speak to someone. We suggest that you call the Social Security office nearest you to schedule an appointment ahead of time.

Be prepared to provide any necessary documents and answer questions regarding eligibility. For more information on the application process, visit the Social Security website.

Who can receive monthly benefits?

Certain family members may be eligible to receive monthly Social Security benefits, including the surviving spouse; a divorced spouse, under certain circumstances; an unmarried child under nineteen; and a disabled child eighteen or older with a disability that began before age twenty-two. Under certain circumstances, additional family members may be eligible, including a grandchild; a stepchild or stepgrandchild; an adopted child; and parents, age 62 or older, who were dependent on the deceased for at least half of their support.

The survivors benefit amount is based on the earnings of the person who died. The more the person paid into Social Security, the higher the survivor’s benefits would be. The monthly amount is a percentage of the deceased’s basic Social Security benefit. It also depends on the survivor’s age and the type of benefit he or she would be eligible to receive. Also, there are limits on how much survivors may earn while they receive benefits.

For more information on who is eligible and the survivors benefit amount, visit the Social Security website.

Navigating the notification and application process can be confusing, especially during the intense grief period following the death of a loved one. Your funeral director is there to assist and guide you through the necessary steps to receive Social Security death benefits.

To discuss Social Security death benefits with one of our knowledgeable funeral directors, please contact us at any of our locations or call our main office at 1-800-Keohane (800-536-4263).


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