What Happens to Social Security When You Die?

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The end of a person’s life doesn’t necessarily mean the end of their social security payments. Depending on factors like income and dependents, Social Security checks will still be issued to someone else even after the original recipient passes away.

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According to the Social Security Administration website, if you work and pay into Social Security, part of those taxes go toward survivor benefits, which means your surviving spouse, children and even parents could be eligible for payments based on your earnings. Likewise, you and your family could be eligible for benefits based on the earnings of someone else who died — as long as the deceased worked long enough to qualify for benefits. If you have no survivors or dependents, the payments simply cease.

Whenever someone dies, the Social Security office should be notified immediately. This is usually handled by the funeral home, which sends in a form called Statement of Death by Funeral Director.

If that doesn’t happen, you’ll have to call the SSA — you cannot report a death or apply for survivor benefits online.

If you need to report a death or apply for survivor benefits, call 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.

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You’ll need to provide the deceased person’s Social Security number when applying. In the event of your death, your survivor will need to provide your social security number. The executor of the estate can also call Social Security, CNBC reported. Here are some things to remember for those getting benefits on a spouse’s or parent’s record, according to the SSA:

  • Social Security will automatically change any monthly benefits received to survivors’ benefits after it receives the report of death.
  • The agency might be able to pay a Special Lump-Sum Death Payment automatically.
  • One thing to keep in mind is that no social security benefits are due for the month of a person’s death.

“Any benefit that’s paid after the month of the person’s death needs to be refunded,” Peggy Sherman, a certified financial planner and lead advisor at Briaud Financial Advisors in College Station, Texas, told CNBC.

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Meanwhile, if your spouse or qualifying dependent were already getting money based on your record, that benefit will auto-convert to survivor’s benefits when the government gets notice of your death. If the surviving spouse has already reached their own full retirement age, they can get their deceased spouse’s full benefit. You can apply for reduced benefits as early as age 60 — or age 50 if disabled — which is a couple of years earlier than the standard earliest claiming age of 62.

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About the Author

Vance Cariaga is a London-based writer, editor and journalist who previously held staff positions at Investor’s Business Daily, The Charlotte Business Journal and The Charlotte Observer. His work also appeared in Charlotte Magazine, Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal and Business North Carolina magazine. He holds a B.A. in English from Appalachian State University and studied journalism at the University of South Carolina. His reporting earned awards from the North Carolina Press Association, the Green Eyeshade Awards and AlterNet. In addition to journalism, he has worked in banking, accounting and restaurant management. A native of North Carolina who also writes fiction, Vance’s short story, “Saint Christopher,” placed second in the 2019 Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition. Two of his short stories appear in With One Eye on the Cows, an anthology published by Ad Hoc Fiction in 2019. His debut novel, Voodoo Hideaway, was published in 2021 by Atmosphere Press.
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