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How to notify the Social Security Administration of a death

Upon the death of a loved one, there's always a lot on your mind. Unfortunately, part of that process involves technicalities that go beyond grieving and focus on paperwork.

While this time is often stressful and upsetting, there are tasks that you must complete in a timely manner. One of those is notifying the Social Security Administration (SSA) of the passing of your loved one.

Who to Notify After a Death

When your loved one passes away, it's crucial you notify some key parties within the first few days. This list may include employers, health care providers, lawyers and financial institutions — anywhere that your loved one might have had insurance policies and accounts — as well as the SSA.

Typically, your funeral home can help. Many funeral directors will offer to fill out the proper forms and notify SSA of the death as part of their services; all you need to do is provide your loved one's Social Security number.

However, ultimately, it is up to you to ensure this happens. Note that you can't report a death online, but you can contact your local SSA Office or call 1-800-772-1213 to speak with a representative from the office who can help.

What happens to Social Security payments after death?

If the death isn't reported, any payments collected from the SSA for the month your loved one passed or later must be paid back to the government. Any payments received the month of death or later should be left uncashed if made by check, or returned directly if received by direct deposit. Check the Social Security Administration website for details. Keeping these payments is considered fraudulent.

What are Social Security death benefits?

If your loved one was collecting benefits from the SSA, you as a surviving spouse or child, may be eligible for a Social Security death benefit.

The benefit is a smaller percentage of the monthly benefit your loved one was collecting. It's calculated depending on how many years your loved one worked, his or her average income, and his or her age at death, among other factors.

Social Security death benefits may be collected by the surviving unmarried widow or widower, older disabled children, minor children or dependent parents. In some instances, surviving divorced spouses, step-children, step-grandchildren and grandchildren may be eligible.

The SSA offers two types of benefits to eligible survivors, a one-time lump sum payment and an ongoing monthly payment called a survivor benefit.

Here's more on each of these options:

Social Security death benefits for children

An unmarried child who is under 18, or 18 if he or she is still in secondary school as a full-time student, or over 18 if he or she became disabled before the age of 22, can qualify for a death benefit.

Social Security spousal death benefits

A current spouse, married for at least nine months, and is at least age 60, as well as former spouses married at least 10 years, age 62 or over and not remarried can qualify for a death benefit. It's possible that former spouses who did remarry but then divorced again can qualify, as well.

Lump sum benefit

The spouse who was living in the same home at the time of death qualifies for a one-time lump sum death benefit of $255. If there is no spouse, then that payment can go to a surviving dependent minor child, usually under the age of 18.

Other frequently asked questions about reporting a death to Social Security

You may have questions as you begin the process of reporting a death to the SSA. Here are answers to some other frequently asked questions you may find helpful.

How long do you have to report a death to Social Security?

You have up to two years to after the date to death to report a death to Social Security in order for an eligible spouse or child to receive benefits.

What documents are needed to report a death to the Social Security Administration?

The individual reporting the death must have the deceased’s Social Security number, their own Social Security number, a death certificate and proof of the deceased’s earnings for the previous year.

When a person dies does Social Security stop?

Social Security benefits stop in the month of the deceased’s death and should be repaid if received after that time. A qualified beneficiary must live an entire month prior to receiving payments they may be eligible for based on the deceased’s death.

Starting the life insurance claims process with Protective

After the passing of your loved one, Protective customers can begin the death claims process with Protective. We're here to help you every step of the way.

Simply click this link to begin the process. Once Protective is notified of the death of your loved one, the claims process begins. From there, Protective will contact you and help guide you through the next steps of the process.

The passing of a loved one is never easy, but the more you can learn about the reporting process now the better off you'll be when the time comes.

To learn more about the claims process or get guidance on common questions, you can read these Frequently Asked Questions.

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All Learning Center articles are general summaries that can be used when considering your financial future at various life stages. The information presented is for educational purposes and is meant to supplement other information specific to your situation. It is not intended as investment advice and does not necessarily represent the opinion of Protective or its subsidiaries.

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