What Happens to Your Social Security Benefits When You Die?

When you die, your Social Security benefits stop. Your spouse, child or other relatives must report your death to the Social Security Administration and provide a certified copy of your death certificate. Your family members then can receive a one-time death benefit. If you have a dependent child or spouse, they may be entitled to survivor benefits as well.

Final Monthly Benefit

You receive Social Security benefits in arrears, which means the check you receive each month is for the prior month's benefit amount. For example, when you receive a check in July, it's actually for the month of June. Since Social Security doesn't issue partial payments, you must live the entire month to receive the benefit. A check won't be issued in the month following your death if Social Security is notified in a timely manner. If you pass away in June and a July benefit is paid, your family must return it.

Death Benefit

A surviving spouse or child may be entitled to a one-time, lump-sum death benefit after you die. As of 2015, the benefit amount is $255. Generally, the benefit is paid to the surviving spouse. If there's no spouse, your child can receive the benefit, if she already was receiving benefits or is eligible to receive benefits based on your work history. There are no restrictions on how the money is used.

Survivor Benefits

A surviving spouse or child may qualify for survivor benefits based on your work record. If you have a child under 18, he may be entitled to monthly benefits equal to 75 percent of your basic Social Security benefit amount. Your child's mother or father also may be entitled to receive 75 percent of your benefit amount each month until your child turns 16. You don't have to be married for the surviving parent to qualify.


A surviving spouse without a child or a child over 16 is also entitled to benefits, but not until she reaches age 60 -- or age 50 is she's disabled. If she claims benefits before retirement age, the benefit amount is reduced. As of 2015, retirement age for most people is 66, but varies based on the year you were born.