When someone dies, their surviving spouse and/or children may be eligible for a one-time lump sum death benefit from Social Security. This money can be used toward funeral expenses or other needs.
It can be hard to navigate the complex bureaucracy of Social Security when you’re grieving, so let’s quickly review a few things you need to know about this benefit and how you can claim it.
What is the lump sum death benefit?
Social Security offers a one-time $255 lump sum death benefit when someone dies. The benefit is paid to qualifying spouses and children. This is separate from the monthly payments that you may be eligible to receive through Social Security survivors benefits.
The lump sum payment must be claimed within two years of your loved one’s death.
Who is eligible for the lump sum death benefit?
Social Security pays one $255 lump sum death benefit when someone dies, regardless of their age or current work status. However, since there is only one payment issued per person who dies, there is a priority order to who is eligible to receive that money.
The surviving spouse is the person with the highest priority. If they were living with the deceased when they died, the surviving spouse will receive the $255 payment. However, the spouse may still be able to receive it if they were not living together as long as the spouse was receiving certain Social Security benefits on their deceased spouse’s record.
If there is no surviving spouse, then the payment is made to an eligible child. In order to be eligible, the child must be eligible for benefits on the deceased’s record in the month of their death. According to CPA Rick from JustAnswer, the eligible child must be age 20 or younger.
You will need to apply.
These benefits are not paid automatically. You must apply for them, either in-person at a Social Security office or over the phone by calling 1-800-772-1213. Applications must be made within two years of the death.
You will be asked to provide some basic information about yourself, such as your name, Social Security Number, and relation to the person who died. You will likely have to prove that relationship with an original or certified copy of a marriage certificate, birth certificate, or other documentation.
You will also be asked a lot of questions about the person who died. You will need to be able to provide the deceased person’s:
- Date of birth
- Social Security Number
- Death date and place
- Social Security application history
- Disability history
- Military service
- Marriage history
- Children’s names and ages
- Earnings history
You can find the application form online. I recommend filling it out at home and bringing it into the Social Security office. This gives you the chance to gather any needed documentation without spending unnecessary time at the office.
FAQs about the Social Security Lump Sum Death Benefit
It’s hard to understand the Social Security’s rules and regulations at the best of times, but it’s even worse when you’re grieving the death of someone you loved. If you have questions, feel free to ask us in the comments section or each out to a Social Security expert on JustAnswer!
How much is Social Security lump sum death benefit?
The Social Security lump sum death benefit is currently $255. It is a one-time payment that is made to an immediate family member when someone dies.
Who is eligible for the Social Security lump sum death benefit?
Because only one payment is made per person who dies, the benefit is given to a surviving spouse. If there is no spouse, then an eligible child may be able to receive it.