Supplemental Security Income benefits are paid to disabled adults and children who meet the financial limits. Low-income adults over age 65 without disabilities may also qualify for SSI benefits if they meet certain financial requirements. Since SSI recipients have limited assets, they may not have the financial ability to plan for funeral expenses. The SSI program does not pay for funeral expenses. However, Social Security does award a small death benefit to surviving family members.
Social Security offers recipients a lump-sum death benefit. As of 2013, the benefit amount is $255. The benefit is payable to a surviving spouse if he was living with the SSI recipient before she passed away. If they were not living together at the time of death, the spouse may qualify if he was collecting benefits under the spouse's record. A child under the age of 18 can apply for the benefit if there is no qualifying spouse. Although a spouse may choose to apply the payment towards funeral costs, the benefit cannot be paid to funeral homes or estates for funeral expenses. If there is no qualifying recipient, the benefit is not paid.
Social Security pays monthly benefits to widowers and dependent children. Benefits are a percentage of the decedent's benefit amount. To receive Social Security survivor benefits, the decedent must have earned the required number of credits based on the age at death. If the deceased is receiving SSDI, the credits do not have to be recalculated. Since SSI benefits are for workers who did not earn enough credits before becoming disabled, there are no survivor benefits for the relatives of SSI recipients.
Applying for Benefits
If a survivor is currently receiving Social Security benefits on their spouse or parent's record, she can contact the Social Security Administration by calling 800-772-1213 or visit a local office. Social Security will automatically convert monthly benefits to survivor benefits after a death is reported and eligibility confirmed. The one-time death benefit may also be added to your benefit automatically. If the survivor is not receiving benefits or is receiving benefits under her own record, she will need to apply for survivor benefits.
The funeral home may agree to discount the cost of the funeral or wait for payment if the family is awaiting a payment from a life insurance policy. If the deceased was considered indigent at the time of death, contact the state's Department of Human Services to inquire about funeral benefits. The state of Illinois provides a benefit of up to $1,103 for a funeral and $552 for the burial of person with a low income. Certain counties also administer funeral assistance programs. For example, in Maricopa County, Arizona, the Indigent Burial Program helps with funeral and burial expenses if the decedent and next-of-kin meet poverty guidelines. Palm Beach County, Florida offers an indigent cremation program for decedents who had an income at or below 110 percent of the Federal Poverty Level.
- Washington State Department of Social and Health Services: What is Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Who Can Get It?
- Nolo: Survivor Benefits for Dependents of SSDI Recipients
- Illinois Department of Human Services: Funeral & Burial Benefits
- Social Security Administration: Lump-Sum Death Payment
- Palm Beach County: Indigent Cremation Program
- Maricopa County Public Fiduciary: Indigent Burial