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Social Security Benefits

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When a loved one dies, there are certain things you need to know about survivor’s benefits. You should immediately contact the Social Security Office and apply for survivor’s benefits because in some cases, benefits may not be retroactive.

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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);
  • A surviving spouse at any age who is caring for the deceased's child under age 16 or disabled;
  • An unmarried child of the deceased who is younger than age 18 (or age 18 or 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;
  • Parents, age 62 or older, who were dependent on the deceased for at least half of their support; and
  • A surviving divorced spouse, under certain circumstances.

A one-time payment of $255 can be paid to the surviving spouse if he or she was living with the deceased; or, if living apart, was receiving certain Social Security benefits on the deceased's record. If there is no surviving spouse, the payment is made to a child who is eligible for benefits on the deceased's record in the month of death.

To receive survivor benefits, you will need to provide the following information at the time of your claim:

  • Proof of death – from the funeral home or death certificate
  • Social Security number – as well as the deceased’s
  • Birth certificate
  • Marriage certificate – if you’re a widow or widower
  • Divorce papers – if you’re applying as a surviving divorced spouse
  • Dependent children’s Social Security numbers
  • Deceased worker’s W-2 forms
  • Bank name – if direct deposit is an option

It is important to remember that Social Security benefits and qualification rules for benefits change periodically. Keeping this in mind, be sure to contact your local Social Security Administration office or visit their website to learn more. Link website to: ssa.gov.

In addition to using the Social Security website, you can call them toll-free at 1-800-772-1213. Staff can answer specific questions from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday. They can also provide information by automated phone service 24 hours a day. If you are deaf or hard of hearing, you may call the TTY number at 1-800-325-0778.

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