In most cases, funeral directors can report deaths to the Social Security Administration (SSA) as part of their client services; Social Security provides a form for this purpose. In addition, vital-statistics offices in most states have implemented Electronic Death Registration, a web-based system that aims to deliver death information to SSA with greater speed and accuracy.
However, it is ultimately the survivor or survivors’ responsibility to ensure that Social Security is notified of a beneficiary’s death, as soon as possible. You can do so by calling Social Security at 800-772-1213 or contacting your local Social Security office.
[Editor’s note: Local Social Security offices are currently closed to walk-in visits due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many Social Security services are available online and by phone. If you have a "dire need situation" regarding your benefits or need to update information attached to your Social Security number, such as your name or citizenship status, you may be able to schedule an in-person appointment. See Social Security's coronavirus page or call your local office for more information.]
A representative payee — a person or organization appointed by Social Security to manage benefit payments for someone no longer able to do so — is also responsible for reporting a beneficiary’s death as part of their larger duty to notify Social Security of any event affecting that person’s payments.
Benefits end in the month of the beneficiary’s death, regardless of the date, because under Social Security regulations a person must live an entire month to qualify for benefits. There is no prorating of a final benefit for the month of death. If Social Security pays the deceased's benefit for that month because it was not notified of the death in time, the survivors or representative payee will have to return the money.
Keep in mind
The death of a someone who was receiving or eligible for Social Security on his or her own work record triggers a one-time payment of $255 (often called the “burial benefit” or “death benefit”) to a surviving spouse who was living with the deceased or collecting Social Security benefits on the deceased’s record. If there is no surviving spouse, the $255 would go to any child who qualifies for benefits on the deceased’s record.
Updated March 17, 2020
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