Here’s What Happens With Social Security When Someone Dies

Jan 12, 2021 / Amanda Chase, Horsesmouth Assistant Editor

When a loved one receiving Social Security benefits passes away, you may wonder how the government knows to stop sending that monthly money. Or, maybe there’s a surviving spouse or dependent who relied on that income and wonders whether some sort of payment can continue. While Social Security rules can be complicated, the bottom line is that the decedent’s benefits stop at death. For survivors, how to get benefits—or whether you qualify—depends on several factors.

It’s important for the Social Security Administration to be alerted as soon as possible after the person dies. In most cases, funeral homes notify the government. There’s a form available that those businesses use to report the death. Or, the executor of the estate or surviving spouse can call the Social Security Administration.

A person is due no Social Security benefits for the month of their death. With Social Security, each payment received represents the previous month’s benefits. So if a person dies in January, the check for that month—which would be paid in February—would need to be returned if received. If the payment is made by direct deposit, the bank holding the account should be notified so it can return benefits sent after the person’s death. It may be no surprise that using someone else’s benefits after they die is a federal crime, regardless of whether the death was reported or not. If the Social Security Administration receives notice that fraud might be happening, the allegation is reviewed and potentially will warrant a criminal investigation. To combat duplicity, the agency matches records with other government entities to identify unreported deaths.

If a spouse or qualifying dependent already was receiving money based on the deceased’s record, the benefit will auto-convert to survivors benefits when the government gets notice of the death. All other survivors must schedule an appointment to apply for benefits. Finally, upon the death of a Social Security recipient, survivors are generally given a lump sum payment of $255.

You can find the full article at CNBC.


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