How you sign up for survivors benefits depends on whether or not you are getting other Social Security benefits at the time you apply.

If you are getting benefits on your spouse's or parent's record when he or she dies, you should report the death to us. Call our toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778). You can also call or visit your local Social Security office.

  • We'll automatically change any monthly benefits to survivor benefits after the death is reported to us.
  • We may be able to pay the Special Lump Sum Death Benefit automatically.

If you are getting retirement or disability benefits on your own record, you will need to apply for the survivor benefits. Call our toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778). You can also call or visit your local Social Security office. We will check to see whether you can get a higher benefit as a widow or widower.

Important: If you want to apply in person, please call and make an appointment before you visit your local office.

If you are not getting benefits, you should apply for survivor benefits promptly because, in some cases, benefits may not be retroactive. You can:

  • Call our toll-free telephone number 1-800-772-1213. If you are deaf or hard of hearing, you can call us at TTY 1-800-325-0778.
  • Call or visit your local Social Security office.

    Important: If you want to apply in person, please call and make an appointment before you visit your local office.

When you apply, please be ready to supply the information we need to approve your application for:

Also, we may need to see the following documents:

  • Proof of death (either from funeral home or death certificate);
  • Your Social Security number, and the deceased family member's number;
  • Your birth certificate;
  • Your marriage certificate if you are the widow or widower;
  • Proof of U.S. citizenship or lawful alien status if you were born outside the United States;
  • Your divorce papers if you are applying as a surviving divorced spouse;
  • Dependent children's Social Security numbers and birth certificates, if available;
  • Deceased worker's most recent W-2 forms or federal self-employment tax return;
  • The name of your bank and your account number so your benefits can be directly deposited into your account.

    Note: If you do not have a bank account, you can sign up for the Direct Express® card program. With the Direct Express® program, we deposit your federal benefit payment directly into your card account.

    If you would like to learn more about Direct Express®, please read the "What is the Direct Express® card?" section of our "Get Your Payments Electronically" leaflet. 

Public records like your birth certificate and marriage or divorce records must be the originals or copies certified by the issuing agency. We cannot accept uncertified photocopies. We will return the documents to you.

After you apply, you will be able to Check Your Application Status online.

What If You Don't Have All Of The Documents?

If you don't have all the documents you need, don't delay signing up for Social Security.

In many cases, your local Social Security office can contact your state Bureau of Vital Statistics and verify your information online at no cost to you. If we can't verify your information online, we can still help you get the information you need.

Note: Since every person's situation is different, you cannot apply for survivors benefits online.