Florida Elder Law & Estate Planning Blog

Steps to take when a Social Security recipient dies

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Despite all the trauma that accompanies the death of a loved one, certain tasks must be attended to without too great a delay. If the decedent was receiving Social Security benefits, one of the tasks is notifying the Social Security Administration. Explaining the myriad of related details and possible scenarios is beyond the scope of this post, but here are some basics to familiarize you with what to expect with regard to Social Security issues.

Notification of the Social Security Administration may NOT be done online. Nor can you apply for survivors’ benefits online. To report the death, you must call the Social Security Administration’s general number, 800-772-1213, or contact your local office. You can find your local office here.

It is important to understand that a benefits check represents the prior month’s benefits. An individual must be alive for the entire month in order to receive benefits for that month. For example, if someone died in June, the check received in July would be an overpayment, and therefore would have to be returned. Returning an overpayment can be arranged through the financial institution if the recipient’s payments were direct-deposited. If the decedent was receiving paper checks, the check must not be cashed and must be mailed back to the Social Security Administration. It’s a good idea to send it back by certified mail so you get a receipt. You may also take a check back to your local office. Again, be sure to get a receipt.
Survivors of the deceased beneficiary may be entitled to receive a one-time, lump-sum death benefit of $255. This is awarded to the spouse who was living with the decedent at the time of death, or if living apart, was receiving payment based on the deceased beneficiary’s Social Security account. If there is no surviving spouse, a child who was receiving benefits based on the decedent’s Social Security earnings may also be entitled to a lump sum payment.

Monthly survivors’ benefits may be available to some family members following the death of the Social Security recipient. Among possible recipients are:

  • A widow or widower age 60 or older, or if disabled, age 50 or older.
  • A widow or widower of any age if caring for a child of the decedent who is under age 16 or disabled
  • An unmarried child of the decedent who is under age 18, or up to 19 if enrolled in school full time; or a child over 18 if disabled, provided the disability developed prior to age 22.
  • Parents over age 62 who had been dependent on the decedent for at least half of their support.


For more information on Social Security issues when a loved one dies, check out this Social Security Administration publication.

The Karp Law Firm’s Florida estate administration lawyers can help personal administrators, trustees and loved ones of decedents handle the many legal, financial and administrative tasks that require attention following a death. You do not have to go it alone. Contact us here or call us at 561-625-1100.