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Who gets the $250 Social Security Benefit When Someone Dies?

As mentioned in an earlier blog post, the Social Security Administration allows those who receive regular monthly benefits to sign-up for a “Lump-Sum Death Benefit.” When they die, this $255 social security benefit will be awarded to an eligible survivor to help cover funeral expenses. Though it isn’t a lot of money, it can be helpful during such a financially challenging time. However, some might have questions as to who actually receives the money in the first place. After all, some people might not have a spouse to support, while others can leave behind multiple survivors.

So who receives the benefit? Is a particular loved one given a higher priority? And how exactly do you receive the Lump-Sum Death Benefit? Read on and find out!

What Is the Lump-Sum Death Benefit?

The Lump-Sum Death Benefit is a $255 social security benefit that is awarded to the survivor of someone who was receiving regular monthly social security benefits. To receive monthly benefits, the deceased worker must have credit for work covered by Social Security ranging from 1.5 to 10 years depending on his or her age at death.

The Lump-Sum Death Benefit is a one-time payment, not to be confused with survivor benefits, which are continuing payments made to the surviving spouse, ex-spouse, children or, in rare instances, the parents of the deceased. This one-time nature, coupled with the relatively low amount offered, means that its benefit is somewhat limited. Still, it can be useful for dealing with at least some of the expenses that come with funeral planning.

Who Receives the Lump-Sum Death Benefit?

Only the widow, widower, or child of a Social Security beneficiary can collect the $255 death benefit. Any other family members are not eligible. Generally speaking, priority will always go to the surviving spouse so long as any of the following apply:

  • They were living with the deceased at the time of death.
  • They were living separately but collecting spousal benefits on the deceased’s earnings record.
  • They were living separately but is eligible for survivor benefits on the deceased’s record.

If there is no surviving spouse, the lump-sum payment is made to a son or daughter who is eligible for benefits on the deceased’s work record in the month of death. An eligible child in this case is unmarried and either a minor (an 18- or 19-year-old who is still in high school) or an adult offspring who is disabled. If there is no eligible spouse or child to collect it, no death benefit is paid.

If the spouse or child was already receiving family benefits on the deceased’s record, then the Lump-Sum Death Benefit will typically be paid to them automatically once the death is reported to Social Security. If that is not the case, the survivor must apply for the death benefit within two years of the death. You can apply for the benefit by calling Social Security at 800-772-1213 or visiting your local office. In either case, you should have the late worker’s birth and death certificates, along with any other important documents.

Though the Lump-Sum Death Benefit is unlikely to cover all of one’s funeral expenses, it’s always a good idea to get a little extra assistance. Every little bit helps, so if you or a loved one receive regular monthly social security benefits, make sure everyone involved is aware of this additional benefit. That way you can better prepare for when the inevitable happens.

About the author

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Founder/Attorney, CCSK Law
I create customized solutions for families to address their planning needs.
I provide plans clients understand. Also, they make sure they know when to use them, and do so affordably. I love the opportunity to break through the legal jargon to clarify issues. We find success when we work through a person’s situation and put the law to work for them.

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