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Can Social Security benefits go to the estate of a deceased beneficiary?

Not in the long term — you can't keep a deceased person's retirement benefits flowing to an estate.

But if a beneficiary dies before receiving a payment that is already due, Social Security can make that one payment to a family member or a legal representative of the estate. The recipient is determined in the following order — if no one matches the first criteria, the payment goes to the second, and so on:

  1. A spouse who was living with the deceased at the time of death or who, for the month of death, was drawing a spousal benefit on the record of the deceased.
  2. Children who, for the month of death, were entitled to a monthly benefit on the deceased's record.
  3. Parents who, for the month of death, were entitled to a benefit on the same record as the deceased beneficiary.
  4. A surviving spouse who does not qualify under number 1 above.
  5. Children who do not qualify under number 2.
  6. Parents who do not qualify under number 3.
  7. The legal representative of the deceased person's estate.

To claim a payment owed to a deceased beneficiary, download and fill out Form SSA-1724 (pdf) as soon as possible after the death and send it to your local Social Security office.

Keep in mind

Social Security payments are for the previous month's benefit and are paid only if the recipient is alive for the full month. For example, if a beneficiary dies in February 2022, Social Security can make the January payment to a relative or the estate, but there will be no payment for February even if the beneficiary died on the final day of the month.

Updated December 27, 2021