When a loved one passes away, reporting their death to the Social Security Administration is an important part of settling their affairs. Promptly notifying Social Security allows the agency to adjust or stop any benefits the deceased was receiving. It also may enable qualified family members to apply for and receive certain benefits. Here is an overview of what documents you’ll need to report a death to Social Security.
The most important document you’ll need is an official death certificate. This is the primary proof you’ll provide to Social Security that your loved one has passed away. You’ll need to obtain certified copies of the death certificate from the funeral director or the state vital records office. Be sure to request multiple copies, as you’ll need to provide the death certificate when reporting the death to other government agencies and financial institutions.
Information Included on the Death Certificate
A standard death certificate includes key details Social Security will want to verify, such as:
- Name of the deceased
- Date of birth
- Date of death
- Social Security number
Having an accurate death certificate with the Social Security number is crucial for reporting the death properly. If there are any errors in the personal details, it can delay the process.
Obituary or Funeral Program
While not required, providing an obituary or funeral program along with the death certificate can help Social Security process the information more quickly. These items can serve as supplemental proof of the death and provide additional personal details.
Social Security Card
If available, providing the original Social Security card for the deceased individual is recommended. This allows Social Security to match the Social Security number easily to the correct identity. However, a Social Security card is not essential if the death certificate includes the Social Security number.
ID for the Deceased
Any valid ID for the deceased person, such as a driver’s license or passport, can also help verify identity. Photocopies of these IDs are acceptable.
Marriage Certificate or Divorce Decree
If the deceased was receiving spousal or widow(er)’s benefits based on a living or former spouse’s work record, providing a marriage certificate or divorce decree may be necessary. This helps establish benefit eligibility.
Birth Certificates of Surviving Children
If the deceased had minor or disabled children who may qualify for Social Security survivor’s benefits, their birth certificates should be submitted. This documents their relationship and eligibility.
If the deceased had adopted children, submit copies of the adoption papers or adoption decree. These are needed to prove the parent-child relationship if the adopted children are applying for benefits.
Military Discharge Papers
If applicable, discharge papers for deceased military veterans should be provided. This helps expedite claims for any military and Social Security benefits the surviving family may be eligible for.
Bank Account Information
To claim any Social Security benefits owed to the deceased as a one-time death payment, bank account information for the next of kin or estate will need to be submitted. An voided check, deposit slip, account statement, or bank letter with routing and account numbers is acceptable.
W-2s or Tax Returns
If the deceased was working recently before their death, providing copies of W-2 wage statements or tax returns may help Social Security calculate any final benefits owed.
Power of Attorney
If you are reporting the death on behalf of the deceased’s family, submit a Power of Attorney document or other legal paperwork demonstrating your authority to act on their behalf. This proves to Social Security you have been designated to handle the affairs.
If the deceased had a will that has been submitted for probate, provide a copy of the will and any probate court filings. This establishes who has legal authority over the distribution of assets, including any Social Security benefits.
If a minor child is applying for survivor’s benefits, the guardian will need to supply guardianship paperwork issued by a court. This proves their custody of the child and responsibility for managing benefits.
Personal Representative Papers
Some states may require naming a personal representative to settle the deceased’s estate. If applicable, submit documentation proving your appointment as personal representative. This could include paperwork issued by a probate court.
If any assets are held in a trust, provide a copy of the trust document and any amendments. This clarifies who the trustees and beneficiaries are that may be impacted by Social Security benefits.
Nursing Home Records
If the deceased was residing in a nursing home or assisted living facility prior to their death, providing billing or admission records may help determine eligibility for certain Social Security benefits if the stay was prolonged.
Funeral Home Receipts
Itemized funeral home invoices can be used as proof of expenses by any family members applying for the lump-sum death benefit Social Security provides in some cases.
How to Submit Documents to Social Security
Social Security offers several options for submitting death reporting documents:
- In person at your local Social Security office
- By mail to the nearest Social Security office or processing center
- Online through the Social Security website’s electronic document submission portal
- By fax
Visit the Social Security website at www.ssa.gov to find the contact information for your regional office. Make copies of any original documents for your records before submitting.
How Long Does Social Security Take to Process?
Social Security aims to process death reports within 24-48 hours after receiving notification. Benefit payments to deceased individuals will be suspended as of the date of death once the report is processed. The timeframe for survivors to begin receiving any benefits owed to them can vary depending on each individual situation. Complex cases typically take several weeks to a few months to determine eligibility and calculate payment amounts.
Who Can Report a Death to Social Security?
The following individuals are authorized to report a death to the Social Security Administration:
- Surviving spouse or children
- Executor named in will
- Authorized legal representative
- Nursing home or funeral home on behalf of surviving family
In most cases, a close relative is the preferred person to contact Social Security about the death. However, even friends, neighbors, former employers, or other associates can make the initial notification if they verify their relationship to the deceased.
Do All Deaths Need to Be Reported to Social Security?
Yes, Social Security requires that all deaths of benefit recipients or eligible earners be reported, regardless of the person’s age. Even if the deceased was not receiving Social Security benefits, their death still needs to be reported if they had earned enough work credits to qualify for potential benefits. But in this situation, reporting the death is mainly to update Social Security’s records rather than to cease payments or enable survivor’s benefits.
Reporting a death to the Social Security Administration promptly and providing accurate documentation are critical to ensure eligible family members transition smoothly to any benefits they may be entitled to. Knowing what documents Social Security requires for death reporting eliminates guesswork during an already challenging time for grieving loved ones. With the proper paperwork and details, Social Security can efficiently process the changes and ensure finances are protected for survivors.