Say your spouse received her benefits on May 9 and died on May 30. Her family or her estate is entitled to keep the payment that arrived on May 9 because it was for April’s benefits. In fact, they would be entitled to keep that money even if she had died the day before it arrived — again, because that payment was for April’s benefits.
But her estate is not entitled to keep the May benefits scheduled to arrive in June, even though she was alive for all but one day of May. She was not alive for the entire month, and for benefit purposes that is the determining factor. If that May payment is made because Social Security was not notified promptly of the beneficiary’s death, it will have to be returned.
Two payments from Social Security may be credited to your account after death.
The first payment is the $255 Social Security death benefit. Only the widow, widower, or child of a Social Security beneficiary can collect the $255 death benefit. Priority goes to a surviving spouse the widow or widower was living with the deceased at the time of death. Or, if he or she was living separately but collecting spousal benefits on the deceased’s earnings record or he or she was living separately but is eligible for survivor benefits on the deceased’s record. If there is no eligible spouse or child to collect it, no death benefit is paid.
The other payment could be the deceased final Social Security benefit payment. If that payment was not received prior to death then it would be included in the deceased’s estate.
Since Social Security payments are paid in arrears, you could receive a payment after death. If you die before your payment from the previous month, then a payment could be direct deposited to your account. Deposits are made on the second, third, and fourth Wednesdays of the month and are determined by your birthdate. If your birthdate is in the first ten days of the month you would receive your benefit on the second Wednesday of the month. If your birthdate is from the 11th to the 20th then you would receive it on the third Wednesday and for birthdates after the 20 monthly payments are on the fourth Wednesday of the month.
If you began receiving benefits before May 1997 your Social Security check is issued on the third day of the month.
The Social Security payment you receive your benefit for the previous month. For example, the payment you receive in February is your January benefit.
To earn your benefit, you must live the entire month. In other words, you are not eligible for a benefit in the month you die. If you die on the first day of the month or the last day you will not be eligible for a benefit for that particular month. If you die April 1 you would receive your March benefit later in April and you would be able to keep it. There could be situations where you would receive a benefit for the month you pass but that benefit would have to be returned to the Social Security Administration.
Since Social Security payments are made in arrears, your final payment will come the month that you pass away. Any payments received after that month will need to be returned.
Should a person die before their regular payment date, an underpayment is created since they are still entitled to receive their payment for the previous month. Social Security withholds payment in the situations, or if the deposit has already been made then the bank is required to return the fund since the person entitled to the underpayment is determined by law. The person legally entitled to the underpayment may or may not be the same person with access to the deceased person’s bank account.
Underpayments are paid in the following order, per Social Security Handbook, Section 1902.3:
A surviving divorced spouse does not qualify as the “widow(er)” under this provision.
The form SSA-1724 that you are required to complete and submit is required for Social Security to determine which person or persons are legally entitled to claim any underpayment due to a deceased beneficiary.
As part of their services, Most funeral homes will report a death to Social Security as part of their services. (Social Security provides a form for funeral directors to perform this function.) If you want this service, be sure to provide the funeral home with the deceased’s Social Security number.
You can also report the death yourself, by calling Social Security at 800-772-1213 or visiting your local Social Security office. Due to the coronavirus, Social Security offices are temporarily closed but online and phone services are still available.
Children are not eligible to receive their parent’s Social Security payments. The final Social Security payment could be made after death and it would be direct deposited to the deceased’s bank account. The payment would then be included in the estate of the deceased and distributed according to their wishes.