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My spouse died last month. Do I have to return the Social Security payment deposited into our bank account this month?

Yes. It’s a little confusing but not hard to figure out if you remember two things:

  1. Social Security benefits are paid a month behind: April’s benefits are paid in May, May’s in June, and so on.
  2. Social Security regulations require that a person live an entire month to receive benefits for that month.

Say your wife received her benefits on May 9 and died on May 30. Her estate is entitled to keep the payment that arrived on May 9 because it was for April’s benefits. In fact, her estate 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.

Keep in mind

  • 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. Or you can report the death yourself, by calling Social Security at 800-772-1213 or visiting your local Social Security office.

Published October 10, 2018

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