What to Do When a Social Security Beneficiary Dies

Social Security cards on top of scatterd $100 bills.You will typically receive your Social Security payments at the same time each month. The date on which your payout falls each month is based on the day of the month you were born, with some exceptions.

What to Expect

Each monthly payment is made as payment for the previous month. A Social Security recipient must have survived the entire month to be entitled to the payment. For example, if a recipient dies on June 24, the payment made on July 3 will have to be returned. Consequently, in most cases, the estates of decedents must pay back the Social Security Administration (SSA) for the last payment received.

Contacting the Social Security Administration

The executor, administrator, or next-of-kin should notify the SSA by calling the 800 number for the state in which the deceased resided. (Often, funeral homes provide this service.) If the recipient had their Social Security payment deposited directly into their bank account, the SSA will arrange to withdraw the payment electronically. The bank account must remain open for at least 45 days following notification to the SSA of the death. If the payments were mailed rather than directly deposited, the SSA will send a letter requesting reimbursement.

Applying for the Death Benefit

Following the death of a Social Security recipient, the SSA will pay a lump-sum death benefit of $255 to:

  • A spouse who was living with the deceased person at the time of death or
  • A spouse or a child who, in the month of death, is eligible for a Social Security benefit based on the deceased person’s record.

For information on applying for the death benefit, visit the SSA website.

You may also want to check out the SSA’s “How Social Security Can Help You When a Family Member Dies.” 

Read more of our articles about Social Security. If you have more questions, find a local elder law attorney near you.