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Why Do You Need to Notify Social Security of a Person’s Death?


One of the first tasks of probate and estate administration is notifying Social Security of the decedent’s passing. This is critical because it may be necessary to return a Social Security payment made after the date of death. Typically, if the decedent had a funeral, then the funeral home will make this notification. But in any case, the personal representative of the estate is ultimately responsible for this matter.

The rules governing Social Security and death are somewhat difficult to understand if you have never been through the process. So here is a brief explanation. Basically, when someone receives Social Security benefits, they are paid one month behind. For example, a person’s benefits for the month of May are paid sometime in June.

So let’s say Jane Smith received her retirement benefits from Social Security on the 10th day of each month. That is to say, she received a check on May 10, 2019, which covered her benefits for April. Jane then passed away on May 12, 2019. Does this mean her estate needs to return the May 10 check? No, because that check covered the month of April, during which Jane was still alive.

However, if Social Security sends a check to the now-deceased Jane on June 10, her estate must return that payment right away. This is because a person can only receive benefits if they were alive for the entire month covered by say benefit. In other words, Jane had to be alive for the entire month of May to receive any benefit for that month. Social Security benefits are not prorated–i.e., you cannot receive partial payment if you were alive for part of the month in question.

Congress Considers New Legislation to Screen “Extremely Elderly” Social Security Recipients

Although Social Security maintains an extensive database of individuals who have died, there are still inaccuracies and gaps. According to a recent statement from Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, there are “6.5 million people who have active Social Security numbers who are 112 years of age or older,” even though “there are only a few dozen people known to be that old in the entire world.” Furthermore, Warner noted that other federal agencies do not have access to Social Security’s death index and, as a result, are paying out unearned benefits to deceased recipients.

To correct that problem, Warner and several other senators recently introduced legislation that would allow all federal agencies to access the “complete death data” of Social Security “in order to curb improper payments.” The legislation would also require Social Security to “screen for ‘extremely elderly’ individuals.” Similar legislation has also been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Speak with a Lee County Estate & Probate Administration Lawyer Today

Dealing with Social Security is just one task of a successful probate administration. If you need advice or assistance in administering an estate from a qualified Fort Myers estate and probate administration attorney, contact the Kuhn Law Firm, P.A., at 239-333-4529 today to schedule a free consultation.


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