The death of a loved one is typically a devastating event. Even if you don’t think about the emotional toll such a loss has on a person, there’s all the legal hoops that you need to jump through in the wake of such an event; one of the necessary steps you need to take is to ensure that the Social Security Administration is notified in order to ensure that the deceased’s Social Security benefits, if any, go to the appropriate survivor.
Thankfully, the process is nowhere nearly as complex as it could be. Here’s how to notify Social Security of a death, whether it’s a member of your own family or if you’re responsible for taking care of the necessary steps for another family altogether.
What you Need to Do
You’ll be relieved to know that the process is relatively simple and straightforward. There are three primary ways in which the SSA can be notified of a person’s death. The first is to visit your local Social Security office; in fact, the SSA website has an easy online office locator where you just need to input your postal code. The site will report the address of the closest office to you; it will also provide the hours of operation and the office phone number.
If you can’t make it into your local Social Security office for any reason – and when you’re dealing with the death of a loved one there are many reasons why you might not be able to – you can also call the SSA’s toll-free number, 1 (800) 772-1213, Monday through Friday from 7 AM to 7 PM in order to speak with a Social Security representative who will be able to take care of the necessities for you.
Finally, there’s one last option – one that many survivors will make use of – though this requires you to know the Social Security number of the deceased. Funeral homes will often notify the SSA on behalf of the aggrieved if you ask them to. Simply speak to the funeral director to determine if the funeral home will do you this service.
What to Expect Next
After you have notified Social Security of a death, you or any survivors may be eligible for a percentage of the deceased’s benefits. In most cases, it’s usually a widow or widower who receives this survivor benefit. However, this isn’t always the case – the surviving spouse must be at least 60 years of age to be eligible, though a disabled widow or widower qualifies for survivor benefits at the age of 50 instead. If a spouse has the responsibility to care for a child 15 years or younger, or who has a disability themselves, is also eligible for survivor’s benefits regardless of their own age.
Meanwhile, if there is no surviving spouse but there are unmarried children 17 years or younger, these children can be eligible for survivor’s benefits. Likewise these children can receive benefits at any age if they have a disability, provided the disability presented itself before the age of 22. Other types of survivors may also qualify in specific circumstances – this includes adopted children, grandchildren, step-grandchildren and even dependent parents of the deceased if they are 63 years of age or older. In some cases, a divorced spouse of the deceased may also qualify for benefits, though widows or widowers who remarry may lose these benefits or have them adjusted if they apply to be a beneficiary of their new spouse’s Social Security payments at retirement.