A person is right to be concerned about Social Security when their spouse passes away, according to the Tuscon.com in “Social Security and You: What to do when a loved one dies.”
The article concerns a woman who is worried about what will happen with their Social Security checks, who she needs to notify at their bank, how to obtain death certificates and how complicated it will be for her to obtain widow’s benefits.
First, what happens to the Social Security monthly benefits? Social Security benefits are always one month behind. The check you receive in March, for example, is the benefit payment for February.
Second, Social Security benefits are not prorated. If you took benefits at age 66, and then turned 66 on September 28, you would get a check for the whole month of September, even though you were only 66 for three days of the month.
If your spouse dies on January 28, you would not be due the proceeds of that January Social Security check, even though he or she was alive for 28 days of the month.
Therefore, when a spouse dies, the monies for that month might have to be returned. The computer-matching systems linking the government agencies and banks may make this unnecessary, if the benefits are not issued. Or, if the benefits were issued, the Treasury Department may simply interrupt the payment and return it to the government, before it reaches a bank account.
There may be a twist, depending upon the date of the decedent’s passing. Let’s say that Henry dies on April 3. Because he lived throughout the entire month of March, that means the benefits for March are due, and that is paid in April. Once again, it depends upon the date and it is likely that even if the check is not issued or sent back, it will eventually be reissued. More on that later.
Obtaining death certificates is usually handled by the funeral director, or the city, county or state bureaus of vital statistics. You will need more than one original death certificate for use with banks, investments, etc. The Social Security office may or may not need one, as they may receive proof of death from other sources, including the funeral home.
A claim for widow’s or widower’s benefits must be made in person. You can call the Social Security Administrator’s 800 number or contact your local Social Security office to make an appointment. What you need to do will depend upon the kind of benefits you had received before your spouse died.
If you had only received a spousal benefit as a non-working spouse and you are over full retirement age, then you receive whatever your spouse was receiving at the time of his or her death. If you were getting your own retirement benefits, then you must file for widow’s benefits. It’s not too complicated, but you’ll need a copy of your marriage certificate.
Reference: Tuscon.com (March 13, 2019) “Social Security and You: What to do when a loved one dies”