When a loved one passes away, there are usually various arrangements that need to be made. One of the tasks to oversee will involve reporting the death to the Social Security Administration. If this process is not carried out, it could lead to confusion and extra tasks later.
Notifying Social Security about a death consists of the following steps:
· Report the death by phone or in person.
· Review Social Security payments.
· Watch for the one-time death benefit.
· Arrange benefits for family members.
Following is a breakdown of each step so you can carry out the reporting as smoothly as possible.
Report the Death to Social Security
After a loved one passes, you’ll want to let the SSA know as soon as possible. “You can ask your funeral director to do it, but you’ll have to give them the Social Security number, or you can do it,” says Karen Bussen, CEO and founder of Farewelling, which helps families plan after a death and is based in New York City. You can call the Social Security Administration or contact your local Social Security office. You cannot report a death online. Be ready to share the Social Security number and date of birth of the deceased.
Review Social Security Payments
Social Security benefits are paid in arrears, meaning they arrive the month after the month to which they apply. For instance, an individual’s benefit for February will arrive in March. “When someone passes away, their Social Security benefits stop that day,” says David Freitag, a financial planning consultant for MassMutual in Springfield, Massachusetts. “There is no grace period or partial payment for the month of death.”
If your loved one passes away during March, they will not be eligible to receive benefits for that month. You can expect them to receive benefits for the previous month but not the month in which they pass away or any time after. For a March death, a benefit would be due for February, but not March or April or later. This applies to a death at any time in March, from the first day of the month to the last day.
When you receive a check for the month in which the person passed away, you can mail it back. “It is often suggested to keep the bank account open where the deposit is made so the SSA can retrieve the last Social Security payment,” Freitag says.
Watch for the One-Time Social Security Death Benefit
After a death has been reported, the SSA can pay a one-time payment. This amounts to $255 and is sent to the surviving spouse if they were living with the deceased. If the surviving spouse was living separately but is still eligible for benefits on the deceased’s record, the one-time payment may still be sent. In the case of no surviving spouse, the payment can be sent to a child who is eligible for benefits on the deceased’s record.
Arrange Benefits for Family Members
While benefits will not be sent to an individual after his or her death, family members may be eligible to continue receiving benefits. You may need to submit some paperwork for the process. “The SSA advises that if you don’t have everything you need, don’t delay,” Bussen says. “They can help you locate any missing documents, and it’s important to apply sooner rather than later as it may affect when you can begin receiving benefits.”
Certain family members may be able to receive Social Security benefits after a death, including:
- A widow or widower who is 60 or older.
- A disabled widow or widower who is 50 or older.
- A widow or widower of any age who is caring for a child of the deceased under age 16 or who is disabled.
- An unmarried child of the deceased who is younger than age 18 (or age 19 if a full-time student in an elementary or secondary school).
- An unmarried child of the deceased who has a disability that started prior to age 22.
- A stepchild, grandchild, step-grandchild or adopted child in certain circumstances.
- Parents at least age 62 who were dependent on the deceased for at least half of their support.
- A surviving divorced spouse in certain circumstances.
You may have several options regarding when to take benefits and which benefits to take. For instance, you may be eligible to apply for your own benefit along with a survivor’s benefit on the deceased’s record. “You don’t want to take both at the same time,” says Laurence Kotlikoff, an economics professor at Boston University. It can be prudent to consider different scenarios before deciding which benefit to take. For instance, you might choose to take a survivor’s benefit for several years and delay your own benefit, and later take your own benefit when it is larger.