Do You Need a Copy of a Marriage Certificate to Apply for Social Security Survivors Benefits?

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The Social Security Administration will pay "survivors benefits" to qualified applicants who have lost a spouse. The agency follows several guidelines to determine who can receive benefits. In order to apply, you must provide certain documents proving your relationship to your deceased spouse.

Application

You should apply for survivors benefits promptly. If you qualify, Social Security will pay benefits from the time you apply. In order to apply for survivors benefits, you must contact Social Security by phone at 1-800-772-1213, or appear in person at your local Social Security office.

Documentation

Social Security needs your marriage certificate if you are applying on the record of a deceased spouse, and if you are not receiving any other type of Social Security benefit. The agency also requires a death certificate for your deceased spouse, your birth certificate, your Social Security number and your spouse’s most recent W-2 forms, or other proof of income for the past year.

Direct Deposit

The agency also requires bank account information, as it now requires all payments to be made via direct deposit. You must have a current bank account and provide the bank account number, as well as the nine-digit routing number used for electronic transfers. The benefit amount is not affected by electronic transfer; neither Social Security nor your bank will charge a fee to carry out this transaction.

Previous Benefits

If you were already receiving family benefits on your spouse’s record, then your current benefits simply become survivors benefits. You must report the death of your spouse, and Social Security will then contact you with a request for the needed information and documents, which may or may not include a marriage certificate.

If you were already receiving your own Social Security benefits, you may be eligible for additional survivors benefits. You must complete another application and provide the death certificate to legally prove that your spouse is deceased.

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