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How to Report a Death to Social Security


When a close friend or family member dies, there are a lot of things you have to deal with — funeral planning, dealing with the person’s estate and, of course, managing your own grief. One important task you may not think of right away is to notify the Social Security Administration of their death. One of your questions may be how to report a death to Social Security. Follow these steps to report the death of a loved one. For help navigating this process, consider working with a financial advisor.

Step One: Contact the Social Security Administration

Talk to the funeral director who oversees the arrangements for your loved one. It is often the case that the funeral director’s services include contacting Social Security as part of their contract. If so, then be sure they have all the pertinent information about your loved one like name, Social Security number and date of birth. The funeral director will also need the contact information for the deceased’s spouse. The funeral director will need to complete Form SSA-721.

If the funeral director does not report the death, you need to know how to report a death to Social Security. You must either visit your nearest Social Security office or call the Social Security Administration. You can’t make the report online. The Social Security Administration is open from 7 a.m. – 7 p.m. regardless of your time zone. Since the customary practice is for the funeral director to report a death, make sure they have the Form SSA-721. If you must report the death, call the Social Security Administration and they will advise you what documents they need for you to bring to them.

Step Two: Send the Social Security Administration a Copy of the Death Certificate

It often takes some time to receive the decedent’s death certificate from your state authorities. You can still call in the death and then complete the process by forwarding the death certificate to Social Security when you receive it. However, the funeral director will very possibly handle this for you along with reporting the death.

Step Three: Send Back Any Checks Received After Death Except for the Death Benefit

how to report a death to social security

If your loved one received Social Security benefits of any kind, don’t keep any benefit checks received after their death. For example, if the decedent dies in March and then receives an April Social Security check, send it back to the Social Security Administration. Send the checks back intact. Do not cash them. If they have direct deposit, talk to the bank and arrange for those funds to be returned to the Social Security Administration until they have time to process the death of the recipient. They must not only receive your phone call reporting the death, but also the death certificate before the death can be processed.

After the death is processed, the surviving spouse will receive a death benefit check for $255. If there is no surviving spouse, but there are surviving children who are eligible to receive benefits on the decedent’s record during the month in which they died, they may receive the death benefit.

Who Gets Social Security Benefits Off the Decedent’s Record?

If your loved one has worked long enough to be a part of the Social Security system, some survivors may be eligible for survivor’s benefits. They are:

  • A widow or widower after they reach age 60 or age 50 if disabled
  • A surviving divorced spouse, under certain circumstances
  • A widow or widower at any age who is caring for the decedent’s child under the age of 16 or if a child is disabled and receiving children’s benefits
  • A child of the decedent who is unmarried and has been disabledsince before the age 22.
  • A child of the decedent who is younger than age 18
  • A child of the decedent who is younger than age 19 and a full-time student in an elementary or secondary school
  • A grandchild, stepchild, step-grandchild or adopted child, under certain circumstances
  •  Parents, age 62 or older, dependent upon the deceased person for more than half their income

Check with the Social Security Administration before you make any assumptions about who receives benefits after a loved one dies since there are certain circumstances attached to many of these beneficiaries. Even though you cannot report a death online, you can apply for benefits online. If the deceased has not yet received Social Security benefits, the appropriate course of action is to go online and apply at the Social Security website after the death has been recorded.

The Bottom Line

how to report a death to social security

If a loved one has died, the death must be recorded by the Social Security Administration through reporting by either the funeral director or you. Neither the death benefit or any survivor’s benefits can be paid until reporting is done and the death certificate is submitted. This procedure should help make the process a little easier.

Social Security Tips

  • A financial advisor can help you understand your Social Security situation. Finding a qualified financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three financial advisors who serve your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • If you want to calculate your Social Security benefits, use SmartAsset’s Social Security calculator.

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