One of the first questions we are asked is “do I have to do anything about Social Security”? Here are some important things to know if a decedent was receiving SSA benefits at the time of passing:
Normally the funeral director will contact Social Security to report a person’s death if you give them the decedent’s social security number, but family members and personal representatives can also report the information directly to the SSA by calling 1-800-772-1213. The most important thing is to make sure SSA records reflect the correct information. Check out SSA Death Master File and familysearch.org
Surviving spouses (and in some cases ex-spouses) and children are entitled to different types of survivor benefits:
a) A one-time survivor benefit of $255 (surviving spouse or children), which can be automatically processed;
b) Continuation of benefits – Payments should be automatically be changed to survivor benefits;
No new application is required for benefits and you do not need to go to a local Social Security office.
2, If you are not receiving social security benefits on behalf of decedent AND/OR you are receiving your own benefits, you are eligible for:
a) A one-time survivor benefit of $255 (surviving spouse or children), which must be applied for within 2 years of death and is NOT retroactive to DOD(*);
b) New survivor benefits – You need to submit an application to the local SSA office
FYI – Application for benefits cannot be done online.
Decedent Benefits and Reclamation
Social Security payments are:
- Retroactive i.e. a payment made in August represents the benefit due for July
- Paid on specific days of the month according to a person’s birthdate and/or the types of benefits received. Click here to see the Schedule for Social Security Benefit payments
- Not pro-rated. In other words, a person is only entitled the monthly benefit only if she was alive for the full month.
- Subject to automatic reclaim. Monthly benefits that are direct-deposited to a decedent’s bank account will be automatically reclaimed if the Treasury Department determines the decedent was ineligible for the benefit. (Direct deposit is required for all SSA applicants after March 1, 2013, and for anyone receiving benefits as of that date. Direct Express card is another payment option)
Mom died July 15, 2016. Social security payment was deposited August 2, 2016. Mom did not live for the full month of July, so the payment will be auto-reclaimed. (If by chance you’ve acted quickly enough to close the account and withdraw the funds prior to the Treasury reclaiming the benefit, you cannot keep the money; Mom was not entitled to the benefit and the government will absolutely want it back. You will need to reimburse the government via check sent to your local Social Security office. )
120-day Rule: It’s possible that the bank itself properly contested the reclaim. SSA has 120 days to submit a request for reclaim from the date it receives notification of date of death and sends a “death notification entry”. While this is the rule, it’s best to double-check with the bank directly to confirm that is the case – it could be that the bank simply hasn’t responded to the request and is sitting on money that should be returned.