Social Security Benefits Rules for When Someone Dies

The death of a loved one is always hard. While any person should take any and as much time as they need to grieve there will be bureaucratic and administrative issues that will need to be taken care of on behalf of the deceased. 

One issue that you may find yourself dealing with is what happens to a person’s Social Security payments after a person has passed. This issue becomes further complicated if there was a spouse, dependent, or minor who was reliant on those monthly benefit checks. 

While every Social Security case is different, the simple answer is that a person’s benefits will cease to be sent after their death. 

First, the Social Security Administration should be contacted as quickly as possible after a beneficiary’s death. Usually, the funeral home will be the ones to contact the government. 

“The person serving as executor [of the estate] or the surviving spouse can also call Social Security,” says Peggy Sherman, a certified financial planner in College Station, Texas,  

There are other things that you are going to want to keep in mind.  One of those is that a beneficiary is due no benefits for the month of their death. 

“Any benefit that’s paid after the month of the person’s death needs to be refunded,” Sherman explains.

Benefits for survivors

The big question though is if there are any benefits available to survivors of the deceased.

If a spouse or qualifying dependent already was receiving benefits based on the deceased’s record, these payments convert to survivors’ benefits.  This is of course after the government gets notice of the death.

If the widow or widower has arrived at their own full retirement age, they can get their deceased spouse’s full benefit.  In addition, the widow or widower can apply for reduced benefits as early as age 60, even age 50 if they face a disability. 

Normally, the earliest claiming age is 62. A widow or widower who claims earlier would switch to full benefits at that age.

Furthermore, if the survivor qualifies for Social Security through their own accord, they can switch to their own benefit anytime between ages 62 and 70 — if they would receive more money through their own benefits check. 

Parents, too

Furthermore, a widow or widower caring for a minor under 16 or disable, and who has not remarried, can claim at any age.

Even an ex-spouse of the deceased can claim benefits, as long as they meet some specific qualifications. As for the minor children of a person who died, benefits are also be available.

In some cases, stepchildren, grandchildren, step-grandchilren and adopted kids could receive benefits of the deceased.

And it works the other way, too. Parents of the deceased who depended on the person for half their support and do not have their own, higher retirement benefit.

Depending on your status, the benefit could be 59% up to 100% of the deceased benefit payments, and all benefits are subject to maximums.

In addition, recipients of benefits may lose those payments if they earn too much or remarry before age 60.