Social Security Benefits and How they Can Help When a Loved One Passes

Social security benefits are important benefits that you earn over your many years of working. When you die, your family can use those benefits to pay for your medical expenses or your funeral costs. They can also be used to help you maintain your standard of living after your loved one passes.

You can’t just call up the Social Security Administration after your loved one dies and request payment. There are steps you have to take to get the benefits, and you have to meet the criteria.

Here’s what you need to know:

Notifying the SSA

Before you can collect another’s Social Security benefits, you need to notify the Social Security Administration of the person’s death. Again, a call or a letter is not going to suffice. You are going to be asked to provide proof.

Be prepared to provide a death certificate and the person’s social security number. In most cases, you can just provide the funeral director with the person’s social security number, and the director will submit the report to the SSA directly. Whichever method you choose, make sure you contact the agency as soon as possible. The faster you are, the less likely there will be a delay in receiving the benefits.


Only certain people can collect another person’s social security benefits. People who can be eligible to receive benefits include:

  • The surviving spouse if age 60 or older (or age 50 or older if the surviving spouse is disabled)
  • The surviving spouse at any age if they are caring for the minor child or disabled child of the deceased
  • The minor child of the deceased if they are unmarried, or the disabled child of the deceased, even if they are an adult
  • Parents who were dependent on the deceased and who are age 62 or older

Under some circumstances, a divorced spouse of the deceased can also receive benefits, as can a stepchild, adopted child, grandchild, or stepgrandchild. Talk to the SSA to determine what other criteria must be met to receive the benefits.


Those who qualify to receive the monthly benefits can also receive a one-time payment of $255 if they were living with the deceased at the time of passing. A surviving spouse may be able to receive this payment even if they were not living with the deceased. A child can also get the payment if there is no surviving spouse.

You must apply for the monthly benefits in order to get them. You cannot simply keep cashing your loved one’s Social Security checks after they die (if they had already been receiving benefits). Doing so can actually lead to criminal charges and penalties. If a check arrives the month of your loved one’s passing, sending it back immediately. If the money is deposited electronically, it should be returned. You may be able to receive benefits for that month, but the money has to be routed through the proper channels.

You can use Social Security benefits to continue supporting your family after your loved one has passed, or you can use them to pay for lingering medical bills or burial expenses. You just need to know how to navigate the system so that you can get the full benefits to which you are entitled and can avoid penalties for any inadvertent mistakes. You don’t want to deal with financial issues or legal troubles while you are grieving. Contact the SSA to learn more about what you need to do to collect benefits or to complete your application.

At Americare Hospice and Palliative Care, we provide counseling about how to get SSA benefits and more as part of our comprehensive services for the whole family. We provide financial counseling, grief counseling, and more. Not only do we do everything possible to improve the quality of life for your loved one in their final days, but we also try to help your family through the difficult time. We offer caregiver support, group therapy, and much more. Contact us in Arizona today to learn more about our comprehensive services or to make an appointment to meet with one of our providers.

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1212 N. Spencer St., Suite #2
Mesa, Arizona 85203

Office: (480) 726-7773
Fax: (480) 726-7790