Nearly 60 million Americans receive Social Security benefits. Approximately two-thirds of these recipients are retired workers. According to Social Security, retirement benefits “represent about 39 percent of the income of the elderly.” But what happens to those benefits after the recipient dies? Can your estate continue to receive your Social Security payments?
Retirement Benefits After Death
With respect to retirement benefits, Social Security ends upon your death. Indeed, it is essential to notify Social Security of a recipient’s death as soon as possible. In many cases, a funeral director hired by the family will take care of this duty.
The exact date of death is important because Social Security benefits are not prorated. That is, a person cannot receive payment if they were not alive for the entire month. For example, if a person dies on April 27, she is not entitled to any Social Security benefits for the month of April.
Frequently the personal representative or executor of a deceased person’s estate must return a Social Security payment received after death. This is because Social Security pays benefits for the previous month. So, to continue the above example, Social Security would send a payment in May for benefits earned in April. The personal representative would then be legally required to reverse or return that payment.
Special Death Payment
Upon a Social Security recipient’s death, there is a one-time payment of $255 made to the surviving spouse of the deceased. The spouse is entitled to this payment provided he or she is living with the deceased at the time of death and was either receiving benefits on the spouse’s record or became eligible for such benefits upon death. If the spouse and the deceased were not living together at the time of death, the spouse may still be eligible to receive this death benefit. If the deceased was not married, a child may be eligible.
Although your retirement benefits end with your death, your spouse, minor children, or dependent parents may still receive payments from Social Security through what are know as survivors benefits. Similar to life insurance, survivors benefits are designed to help replace the financial loss incurred when a family member dies.
Like retirement benefits, the exact amount of survivor’s benefits will depend on how long you have worked. Your surviving spouse may be eligible for full survivors benefits when he or she reaches full retirement age (67 for persons born in 1962 and later). An unmarried child under the age of 18 may also be eligible for survivor’s benefits, as well as children of any age who are disabled.
Get Advice From a San Diego Estate Planning Lawyer
You may have many additional questions about the Social Security issues that may arise upon a family member’s death. An experienced California estate planning attorney can help answer these questions and advise you on a number of other issues. Contact the Law Office of Scott C. Soady in San Diego if you would like to speak with an attorney today.