How to Apply for Survivors Benefits

How To Apply

You will not be able to report a death or apply for survivor benefits online.

The Social Security Administration is typically notified immediately when someone dies. In most situations, the funeral home will report someone’s death to the SSA. It’s recommended that you provide the deceased individual’s Social Security number to the funeral home if you wish for them to submit a report.

If you’re reporting a death or applying for benefits yourself, call 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778). You may talk with a Social Security representative between 7 AM and 7 PM Monday-Friday. You can also call your local Social Security office. An appointment isn’t necessary, but calling ahead and scheduling one could reduce the waiting time to talk with a representative.

When You Report a Death

If you are getting benefits on your spouse’s or parent’s earnings record:

  • You usually will not need to file an application for survivors benefits.
  • The SSA will automatically change any monthly benefits you receive to survivors benefits after they receive the report of death.
  • We may be able to pay the Special Lump-Sum Death Payment automatically.
  • If you are getting retirement or disability benefits on your own earnings record:
  • You must apply for the survivor’s benefits.
  • The SSA will check to see whether you can get a higher benefit as a widow or widower.
  • If you are not getting benefits, you should apply for survivors benefits as soon as possible because, in some cases, benefits may not be retroactive.

Documents Needed to Apply

Choose which benefit you will be applying for from the provided list to learn more about the application process and what documents are necessary when you submit an application:

  • Widows/Widower’s or Surviving Divorced Spouse’s Benefits – Form SSA-10
  • Child’s Benefits – Form SSA-4
  • Mother’s or Father’s Benefits – Form SSA-5 (You must have a child under age 16 or disabled in your care.)
  • Lump-Sum Death Payment – Form SSA-8
  • Parent’s Benefits – Form SSA-7 (You must have been dependent on your child at the time of his or her death.)

If you currently don’t possess all the required documents, don’t wait to sign up for Social Security benefits. Generally, your local Social Security office is able to talk with your state Bureau of Vital Statistics and verify your information online without any cost to you. If the SSA cannot verify your information online, they are still able to help you acquire the required information.