Get Your Affairs In Order – What All Widows Need To Know About Social Security

widow at cemetery
Photo by RODNAE Productions from Pexels

Althought it’s not something anyone wants to think about, it’s important you think about what will happen financially if your spouse passes away. This includes how his/her death affects your Social Security. The Dallas Morning News recently published a thorough explanation of what you need to do, especially if you want to collect survivor benefits.

Be aware that if your spouse dies, you might have to return their last benefits check. That’s because Social Security checks are paid one month behind. For example, the August check is actually the benefit payment for July. So, when someone dies, the Social Security check for the month of death must be returned. However, it is highly likely that the check would never even be issued because there are computer-matching operations that go on between various government agencies and banks. If the Treasury Department learns of a person’s death in time, it won’t even issue the Social Security benefit. Or, if the check was issued, the bank will likely intercept the payment and return it to the government before it even hits the deceased’s checking account.

If you are a widow or widower, you may be entitled to survivor benefits. If you were receiving spousal benefits, because you did not have enough work credits to earn your own Social Security benefits, you must notify the Social Security Administration (SSA) to have the benefits changed from spousal benefits to survivor benefits. You might have to show a death certificate. If you were receiving your own Social Security benefits, you are now eligible to collect widow’s benefits, which would increase how much money you receive each month. Call the SSA to file a claim. You may need to provide a death certificate as well as a marriage certificate for this.

Finally, the widow or widower will receive a $255 death benefit from Social Security. It is a one-time payment. The amount was set about 50 years ago and was supposed to help pay for funeral expenses.

Regardless of whether you receive your own Social Security benefits or spousal or survivor benefits, the fact remains that these monthly benefit payments are not enough. The Seniors Trust wants Congress to do something about this by passing the Social Security Expansion Act. It would increase monthly benefits, establish a fair cost-of-living adjustment, and ensure the long-term solvency of America’s retirement program.