Social Security: What to do when a family member dies

Your Guide to State, Local, Federal, Estate + International Taxation

Social Security, tax, IRS, estate, benefitsIf you are a spouse, child or parent of someone who has died, you may qualify for Social Security benefits. To get spousal benefits, the deceased family member must have worked long enough under Social Security to qualify. A worker can earn up to four credits each year. In 2018, when a worker earns $5,280, they have earned their four credits for the year.

The required number of credits needed to receive survivor benefits depends on the worker’s age; the younger a person is, the less credits are required. No one needs more than 40 credits (10 years) to be eligible for benefits. Outcomes vary by situation, so you should reach out to a Social Security claims representative about your choices.

When a family member dies, you cannot report the death or apply for benefits online. If you provide the deceased person’s social security number to the funeral home, they can report the death for you. To apply for benefits you should visit your local Social Security office. Another option to report a death and apply for benefits is to call (800) 772-1213 and speak to a social security representative.

When your family member dies, you will be eligible for a one-time $225 payment. However, if the deceased was receiving monthly benefits, you must return the benefit received for the month of death and any later months.

The following family members may be eligible to receive monthly benefits:

  • A widow or widower age 60 or older (age 50 or older if disabled);
  • A surviving divorced spouse, under certain circumstances;
  • A widow or widower at any age who is caring for the deceased’s child who is under age 16 or disabled;
  • An unmarried child of the deceased who is:
    • Younger than age 18 (or up to age 19 if he or she is a full-time student in an elementary or secondary school); or
    • Age 18 or older with a disability that began before age 22.

The benefits eligible to be received depend on your relation to the deceased. You can visit for more information on the specific requirements based on your circumstances.

Social Security can provide aid to your family. Don’t miss out on this valuable benefit.

KC Kolb