Who Qualifies for a Social Security Death Benefit?

Social Security provides income to millions of Americans in the forms of retirement, disability, survivors benefits and Supplemental Security Income. As one of the most successful social programs in the world, Social Security provides economic security through old age, disability and death of a provider. This program provides survivors benefits to certain relatives of the deceased and a one-time death benefit payment.


Social Security started as a retirement or "social insurance" program under President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1935, and survivors benefits were first added in 1939, according to the New York State Society of CPAs website. The original individual-based plan became family-based with this modification. Social Security includes retirement, survivors benefits, disability payments and Supplemental Security Income, or SSI.


Survivors benefits are paid to several groups of qualifying relatives under Social Security regulations. This payment is a monthly benefit to a spouse over age 60 or age 50 if disabled and to a child under age 18 who is a student. A disabled child may also be entitled to survivors benefits.

Death Benefit

A one-time death benefit payment is available to one of the survivors under Social Security regulations. There are two classes of survivors who can potentially receive the death benefit. The surviving spouse is first in line if she was living with the deceased at the time of death. A surviving spouse not living with the deceased at time of death must be receiving Social Security benefits on his record. If there is no qualifying surviving spouse, a child of the deceased who is entitled to benefits in the month of the death of the parent can receive the one-time benefit of $255.


Notify Social Security immediately upon the death of a relative, or provide the Social Security number of the deceased to the funeral home. Funeral homes routinely notify the Social Security Administration of deaths, according to the Social Security website. Apply for the one-time death benefit in the name of the qualifying relative.

Follow Up

Return any Social Security payment received for the deceased in the month following the death, and notify the bank of the death if direct deposit is the payment method. Apply for Social Security survivors benefits if you qualify as a spouse, divorced spouse, child or parent over age 62 dependent upon the deceased prior to his death.