Must a Social Security Check Be Returned if the Recipient Dies?

The Social Security Administration pays retirement and disability benefits the month after the month covered. You receive June benefits in July. You may think that if you die in June, your benefit check paid in July would be valid and would not require that your survivors return it. The Social Security regulations require your survivors to return checks received covering retirement or disability benefits for the month of death.


Payments Received

If you receive a Social Security payment after the death of the individual addressed on the check, you must return the check to the Social Security Administration. If the individual uses direct deposit, you must notify the bank of the date of death, and complete the form for return of the payment. If the individual uses Direct Express debit card for Social Security benefits payment, survivors must notify Direct Express of the death. Direct Express returns funds to the Social Security Administration if necessary and distributes any funds left on deposit in accordance with state law.


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Checks Held

If a Social Security recipient receives a check and does not cash it, whether the survivors must return the check to Social Security depends on the month the check covers. If the check covers a month that the Social Security recipient lived for the entire month, the survivor can accept the check. If the recipient died during that month, even on the last day of the month, the survivor must return the check.



A funeral home employee may request the deceased's Social Security number and notify Social Security of the death. The surviving spouse can receive a lump-sum payment of $255 based on the death. If there is no surviving spouse, the payment goes to a dependent child. If there is no surviving spouse or dependent child, the Social Security Administration makes no payment. Qualifying survivors may apply and receive monthly Social Security benefits based on the work history of the deceased. Although the survivors have to return the check for the month of death, survivors can collect individual benefits for the month of the death of the worker.



Relatives who may qualify for survivors benefits include a spouse or an ex-spouse who is 60 and unmarried, children under age 18 or 19 if in high school and dependent parents over age 62. A surviving spouse caring for a child under age 16 can qualify for survivor benefits at any age, and a disabled spouse can qualify as early as age 50. A disabled child whose disability began prior to age 22 also can receive survivor benefits at any age. These are adult child benefits in Social Security terminology.