The Social Security Death Benefit

Dec 13, 2011 | 2 comments

Social Security provides the grand sum of $255.00, paid either to the funeral home or next of kin, when someone dies. Why $255? That was what a funeral cost in 1937 when Social Security first started. The benefit has never been raised over more than 70 years.

At a recent book event, a man told me that he was going to let the funeral home have the $255 and leave them to figure out what to do with his lifeless carcass. He really didn’t care.

At this point, $255 will maybe get you a decent size obituary in the Albuquerque Journal for one day. A cheap funeral runs $6,000 to $10,000. Why even bother with the Social Security death benefit?

The thing is, this death benefit serves to alert Social Security that the person who has been receiving checks is deceased. When they get word to provide the death benefit for a particular Social Security recipient, that’s how the Administration will know it’s time to stop sending pension checks.

Those who might seek to continue collecting a deceased family member’s Social Security checks, illegal as that might be, might skip the $255 death benefit.

There are so many folks who can’t afford a funeral these days. That guy who couldn’t care less comes to mind. Here’s a concept: What if Social Security bumped up the death benefit to an amount closer what a funeral actually costs today?

A Good Goodbye