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AARP Bulletin

Social Security Mailbox

Who Is Eligible to Receive the Social Security Death Benefit?

The $255 could go to a surviving spouse or child

En español | Q. I know Social Security pays a $255 death benefit to the family of a person who dies. Who exactly is eligible to receive this? And how do you apply?

A. The death benefit is a lump sum, paid upon the death of a person who worked long enough to qualify for Social Security benefits. It goes to a surviving spouse who was living in the person's household at the time of death, or, if living apart, was receiving certain Social Security benefits on the deceased's record.

See also: Social Security survivor benefits.

If there's no eligible spouse, the $255 may go to a child who is eligible for benefits on the person's record in the month of death. No qualifying recipient means no payment — it cannot, for example, go to the funeral home. To apply, call 1-800-772-1213 or contact your local Social Security office.

Also of interest: Top 25 Social Security questions. >>

Stan Hinden, a former columnist for the Washington Post, wrote How to Retire Happy: The 12 Most Important Decisions You Must Make Before You Retire. Have a question for the Social Security Mailbox? Check out the archive. If you don't find your answer there, send a query.

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