What Is a Social Security Death Benefit?


Quick Answer

Two types of Social Security payments are referred to as death benefits. One is paid monthly and is a proportion of the Social Security benefit of the deceased, while the other is a lump sum paid to the child or spouse of the deceased, the Social Security Administration explains.

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Full Answer

The monthly benefit paid to an individual cannot be higher than the monthly benefit of the deceased, and the exact amount depends on the survivor’s age and relationship to the deceased, notes the Social Security Administration. For example, the highest amount is available to a surviving spouse who is at least at full retirement age; this individual receives the full monthly benefit of the deceased.

A lump-sum payment is available to a worker’s spouse or children, depending on circumstances. Spouses are eligible if they are living with the deceased at the time of death, if they are receiving benefits on the worker’s record at the time of death, or those benefits became available to them upon the worker’s death. A child may receive the lump-sum payment if there is no surviving spouse, if benefits on the worker’s record were being paid out at the time of death, or those benefits began to apply upon the worker’s death, states the Social Security Administration.

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