Social Security Death Benefit

Every few days, someone asks me about the Social Security one-time death benefit and how to collect it.

I have some good news and some bad news on this topic.

The Bad News - The One-Time Social Security Administration Payment Is Tiny

First, the bad of the beginning of 2023, the one-time death benefit was only $255.

My recommendation is not to spend the cash all in one place.

The Good News - If You Qualify To Receive This Benefit, You Don't Have To Do Anything To Receive The Funds

Now, the good news...the $255 will be paid automatically (assuming the funeral home is provided with the decedent's social security number).  No one has to do anything else or file any paperwork.

When funeral homes do the paperwork to report a death and prepare death certificates, they enter the decedent's social security number into the death record system, and the Social Security Administration is immediately notified.

So, beneficiaries of the $255 one-time payment do not have to do anything - the money will arrive approximately six weeks after death.

Who Is Eligible To Receive The $255 One-Time Benefit? 

Eligible beneficiaries include :

  • a surviving spouse (assuming the couple was living together or is an eligible beneficiary on the decedent's social security record (that is a highly technical term, and I recommend speaking with the Social Security Administration for clarification)) and
  • if there is no surviving spouse, the decedent's children (the child must be an eligible beneficiary on the decedent's record, e., typically younger than 18 years old).  If there is more than one eligible child, then the surviving children split the $255.

It's important to note that this tiny one-time death benefit payment is not intended to replace the deceased person's income or provide ongoing support for the surviving family members.

A $255 payment from the government is better than "a sharp stick in the eye," but not by much.