What happens when someone who receives Social Security benefits dies? Does their surviving spouse lose that monthly check? Are there ways to continue receiving benefits? Medicare expert and author, Toni King explains Social Security Survivor Benefits and more.
I have been married for 41 years to the same wonderful man. We only have our Social Security checks with a little pension from his job. I am very concerned about losing his Social Security check of $1,800 a month when he passes away. I get a very small Social Security check of about $525 because I did not work full-time and was a stay-at-home wife.
I’m worried that I cannot survive on what my check is. Can you please tell me what to do when he passes away? Do I receive both checks; his check only, or, I hope not mine only! I’m sure there are others who are asking the same question.
Florence, from New Orleans
This is a very interesting question in regard to Social Security. Social Security will advise you on what will be most advantageous for you. They will show you which way will be best. Social Security may not allow you to keep both Social Security checks. They will let you use and keep which option is best for you.
Sometimes people wait too long to let Social Security know that their loved one (spouse) has passed away. Don’t wait! The Social Security office goes by the day you notify them of your loved one’s passing; not the day that he or she passed away. It states on the Social Security website to go immediately after the passing of your loved one, to advise Social Security of your loved one’s passing, and to apply.
Social Security Survivor Benefits, Next Steps
- Call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213, visit the website at ssa.gov, or go to your local Social Security office and meet with a representative. They will advise you on how to apply for survivor benefits.
- Social Security will show you which way will be best for you, but they may not allow you to use your or your husband’s Social Security checks.
Toni Says: Remember – any time you go to Social Security and they are processing an application or making a change, always get a copy of what they are processing and what they’ve promised you.
- If you are getting benefits as a wife or husband based on your spouse’s Social Security check, when you report the death to Social Security, they will change your payments to survivor benefits. If they need more information, then they will contact you.
- Social Security will need certain information, but do not delay applying if you don’t have everything. A Social Security representative can direct you as to what you need.
- Social Security needs either original documents or copies certified by the agency that issued them. They do not accept an unofficial copy. Everything has to be documented and official.
What Type of Documents and Information Will Social Security Need?
- Proof of death – either from a funeral home or a death certificate
- Your Social Security number, as well as the deceased spouse
- Your birth certificate
- Your marriage certificate, if you are a widow or widower
- Your divorce papers, if you are applying as a divorced widow or widower
- Dependent children’s Social Security numbers, if available, and birth certificates
- Deceased spouse’s W-2 forms or federal self-employment tax return for the most recent year
- The name of your bank and your account number so your benefits can be deposited directly into your account
Toni KingContributing Writer
Toni King is an author, columnist, and radio and TV personality who specializes in Medicare, Social Security, and long-term care planning. While conducting a Medicare workshop in 2009, Toni was approached by a member of the audience who had received incorrect information about his Medicare Part B enrollment from Social Security. After taking a couple of days to help the gentleman straighten out his overwhelming problem, Toni’s new mission had become clear. Following more than 27 years as a top sales leader in the Medicare insurance industry, Toni would become an advocate for Americans receiving Medicare. Since then, Toni has devoted her life and career to putting Medicare into “people terms” with the help of her books, consultations, workshops, and website, ToniSays.com. Read more from Toni King.