Get the help you need from the Social Security Administration when a family member dies

When a loved one passes away, the last thing you may feel like doing is dealing with the Social Security Administration (SSA). However, with a little guidance and planning, you can address the necessary details efficiently.

How to notify the Social Security Administration

It is a good idea to add the SSA to your contacts now, so that you don’t need to hunt for the appropriate contact information when you need it. The telephone number for the Social Security Administration is 1-800-772-1212, and the offices are open 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.

You can also take care of business with the SSA by visiting its website at and setting up a “my Social Security account.” This portal also allows you to change your address and phone number or start/change the direct deposit information for any benefits to be paid to you. Please note that many funeral home directors are willing to help you report the person’s death to the SSA upon making funeral arrangements.

What you or your family members may be eligible to collect

A surviving spouse or minor child of a decedent may be qualified to receive a lump-sum death payment of $255. A surviving spouse who was living in the same household will likely qualify for the lump-sum payment. If the surviving spouse was living apart from the decedent, and if he or she was already receiving benefits on the deceased person’s record or had become eligible to receive benefits upon death, then the surviving spouse will also likely qualify for the lump-sum payment. Keep in mind that application for lump-sum payment must be made within two (2) years of the date of death.

Certain family members may be eligible to receive monthly benefits, including a widow or widower, age 60 or older (age 50 or older if disabled), or a widow or widower of any age who is caring for the decedent’s child who is under age 16 or disabled. To find out about other persons who may also be eligible for benefits, you can visit

What to do if the decedent was receiving Social Security benefits

A confusing issue for many is what to do if the decedent was receiving Social Security benefits. The rule is that you must return the benefit check received for the month of death or any later months. For example, if an individual dies in July, you must return the benefit check received in August because that check was for July. The SSA does not prorate the benefits for the month of death (even if the date of death was the last day of the month). If the payment is by direct deposit, notify the financial institution as soon as possible so it can return/transfer the payment(s) back to the SSA.

The SSA will then review and calculate the continued benefits or changes to benefits to be paid to the surviving spouse or other family members and work with that person or persons on instituting the correct future payments.