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Final Details: Claiming Benefits

Social Security

If the deceased had paid into Social Security for at least 40 quarters, two types of benefits are possible:

  1. Death benefit: $255 for burial expenses is available to eligible spouses or dependent children. The survivor can complete the necessary form at the local Social Security office, or the funeral director may complete the application and apply the payment directly to the funeral bill.
  2. Survivor's benefits: A variety of benefits are available depending on the age and relationship of any survivors. You may be eligible for benefits if you match any of these circumstances:
    • Spouse age 60 or older
    • Disabled surviving spouse age 50 or older
    • Spouse under 60 who cares for dependent children under 16 or disabled children
    • Children of the deceased under the age of 18 or who are disabled

For more information, visit the Social Security Administration online or call 800-772-1213 for an appointment with the nearest office to inquire about benefits and eligibility. When applying for survivor's benefits, you will need to have birth, death, and marriage certificates, Social Security numbers, and a copy of the deceased's recent federal income tax return.

Veteran's Administration

If the deceased was receiving monthly payments already, you will need to notify the VA of the death.

If the deceased was a veteran who received a discharge other than dishonorable, survivors may get $300 toward funeral expenses and $150 for burial costs. Burial in a national cemetery is free to a veteran, spouse, and dependent children. Veterans are also eligible for a headstone or grave marker.

The surviving spouse and dependent children of disabled veterans may also be entitled to a lump sum death benefit, monthly payments, such as educational assistance and medical care.

For more information, visit the Veteran's Administration online or check with the regional VA office about your eligibility for the different types of veteran's benefits and the documents you will need to apply for benefits.

Employee Benefits

Many employers provide life, health, or accident insurance. The deceased may be due a final paycheck for vacation or sick leave.

Be sure to contact all past employers, including federal, state or local governments, to see if you are entitled to death benefits, continued health insurance coverage for the family, or payments from an annuity or pension plan.

If the deceased belonged to a union or professional organization, check to see if they offer death benefits for their members. Also find out about any credit union balances.

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