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What Happens to Unclaimed Death Benefits


Did you know that there is an estimated one-half billion dollars in benefit checks that have not been claimed or remain un-negotiated until today?

The Social Security Death Index shows that most of these unclaimed assets are mostly death benefits left behind by heirs of deceased workers. The record also contains essential information about nearly 72 million people whose records are kept by the Social Security Administration including those of deceased workers since 1962, when records were finally computerized.

Why are there unclaimed death benefits?

Sometimes heirs of decedents, or the families of deceased workers, simply do not know that they are entitled to receive the benefits. Other times, the financial records are not available or incomplete at the time of the worker’s death, hence no update of the applications were made.

However, without them knowing, beneficiaries can still claim the benefit. Although there has been no effort made to locate or notify them, there is no time limit set for beneficiaries to request a reissue for a lost or uncased check.

With a Social Security number, heirs can obtain the decedent's application and claims file, which contains important personal details such as birth place, parents’ names, and where the lump-sum death distribution beneficiary lived. This information may be necessary in

The Social Security number of a deceased relative may provide the key in claiming for death benefits. First, you need to conduct an effective unclaimed asset search by requesting for a form from the social security office and having it accomplish and submitted.

To avoid having problems receiving the death benefits due you, take the following advice and guidelines:

  • A family member should be assigned to take the task of working on the death benefits of a deceased relative.

  • The bank or financial institution should be notified about the beneficiary’s death.

  • If benefits are paid on a monthly basis through direct deposit, informing the bank and financial institutions must be done immediately to have any funds received for the month of death returned to Social Security agency as soon as possible.

  • The same applies to benefits paid by checks. The checks must also be returned to the agency as soon as possible.

Here are some of the documents required to show proof of eligibility to receive the said benefits:

  • Birth certificate or other proof of birth

  • if you are an immigrant or not a natural-born citizen, naturalization papers

  • U.S. military discharge papers

  • W-2 forms and/or self-employment tax returns for last year

  • Original copies and photocopies of self-employment tax returns or medical documents

Under the law, the surviving spouse of a deceased worker is entitled to a one-time lump sum death benefit in the amount of $255, if the spouse is living with his partner at the time of death.

And if living apart, a spouse is eligible for social security benefits on the beneficiary's earnings record for the month of death.

In cases where there are no surviving spouses, payments will be made to children who were eligible for benefits on the beneficiary's earnings record in the month of death.

When applying for death benefits, you can expect to be asked about your own social security number and further details about the deceased worker’s benefits

You should also bring along your checkbook or other papers to show your account number at a bank, credit union or other financial institution. In this way, you can sign up for Direct Deposit, and avoid worries about lost or stolen checks and mail delays.

To avoid further delay in receiving your death benefits, you must immediately file your claim with the assistance of your death benefits lawyer to give the social security office more time to look for missing documents or information and be able to supply them to you.


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