If your mother or father recently died, you may be feeling overwhelmed by all of the paperwork and loose ends you now face. We’d like to extend our sincere condolences and provide answers to some of the most common questions that arise during this difficult period, such as whether you can inherit Social Security payments.
One of our readers wrote in to ask:
What happens to my parent’s Social Security payments? Am I entitled to receive these benefits now?
The answer is clear: You cannot inherit Social Security payments. However, there may be other Social Security benefits available to certain dependents who qualify.
Adult Children Cannot Inherit Social Security Payments
Social Security retirement benefit payments stop upon the death of the beneficiary; in this case, your parent.
However, certain Social Security benefits are available for dependent children. These minor children don’t actually inherit Social Security benefits, though. Instead, they can receive payments from the SSA in the form of dependent or survivor’s benefits. In 2020, in fact, the Social Security Administration (SSA) paid an average of $2.8 billion in monthly benefits to four million children in the United States. These children became beneficiaries because either one or both parents became disabled, retired, or deceased. Dependent benefits help make it possible for children to complete high school by covering necessary expenses as they grow up.
A child can get dependent Social Security benefits if they are:
- Younger than 18 years old
- Aged 18 to 19 and also a full-time high school student
- 18 or older with a qualifying disability that began before age 22
The situations listed above are exceptions to the general rule. In most cases, if your parent retired and receiving regular Social Security benefits before passing away, those payments stop after death.
Can Spouses Inherit Social Security Disability or Retirement Benefits?
Once again, no, you cannot inherit Social Security payments from a deceased spouse or ex-spouse. It doesn’t matter if the person who passed got Social Security disability or regular retirement benefits each month. However, eligible dependents getting up to 50% of the deceased spouse’s SSD or regular Social Security payments may qualify for survivor’s benefits. This includes spouses still married to the original beneficiary at the time he or she passed away or ex-spouses who never remarried.
Do I Have to Call the SSA?
It is generally a funeral home’s job to inform the SSA when an individual passes away. This step ensures the deceased person’s benefits stop automatically. However, you must give the funeral home director your parent’s Social Security number so they can report it in a timely manner. If your chance to do this already passed, you may also report it to the SSA yourself. Regardless, someone needs to notify the SSA immediately when a person dies. Keep in mind that you cannot report a death or apply for survivor’s benefits online. Instead, you must do this step over the phone.
To report a death or apply for benefits, call the SSA toll-free: 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778). You can speak to a Social Security representative during regular business hours Monday through Friday.
IMPORTANT: If you collect or spend any Social Security money after your loved one dies, you must return those payments. Keeping a deceased person’s Social Security payments or intentionally failing to notify the SSA of someone’s death is a federal crime.
What About the Lump-Sum Death Payment?
You may have heard about the lump-sum death payment (LSDP) of $255. This Social Security death benefit isn’t available for all survivors when someone dies, however. The LSDP is available only to people the SSA counts as eligible dependents at the time someone passes away. Spouses, minor children, or disabled adult children can qualify for the LSDP. Adult children not counted as disabled dependents cannot qualify for the lump-sum death benefit.
While You Cannot Inherit Social Security Payments, Survivor’s Benefits May Be Available
Are you an adult who cannot work due to a long-term disability? Then there are other assistance programs available to help you after your parents pass away.
While your parent’s Social Security retirement benefits ended, it is smart to learn more about what other types of survivor’s benefits you may qualify to receive. Let’s start by taking a look at Social Security survivor benefits. This program can help partially replace income lost due to old age, the death of a spouse or qualifying ex-spouse, or disability.
In other words, adult children with disabilities can receive Social Security benefits after the deaths of their parents. But again, they don’t inherit the Social Security payments originally made to the deceased parent.
Adult children may only qualify for Social Security survivor’s benefits if they:
- Have a qualifying disability under the SSA’s medical criteria that began before age 22, AND
- Never earned more than the monthly substantial gainful activity (SGA) limit while working. In 2022, the SGA limit is $2,260/month for blind applicants; for non-blind individuals, the limit is $1,350/month.
How Much Can a Disabled Adult Child Receive in Survivor’s Benefits?
Federal law states that survivor’s benefits equal no more than 75% of the deceased beneficiary’s monthly Social Security payment. Your deceased parent’s benefit amount depends on how much they paid in Social Security payroll taxes over a 35-year work history.
If your family wants to look into this before someone passes away, you can estimate this amount by logging into that person’s MySocialSecurity account on SSA.gov. You, the survivor, may be eligible for 75% of the primary insurance amount (PIA) on that worker’s account. This number usually increases in years with an approved cost-of-living adjustment (COLA). However, it’s impossible for anyone to inherit Social Security payments or for survivors to receive the same benefit amount as the deceased relative.
Help is Available to You
Again, we extend our condolences to you for your loss. Although you as an adult son or daughter cannot inherit Social Security retirement benefits, then you may qualify for other payments. A Social Security attorney can determine whether you may be eligible for monthly disability benefits, for example. To speak with a local disability advocate for free about your potential options, click the button below now!
Laura Schaefer is the author of The Teashop Girls, The Secret Ingredient, and Littler Women: A Modern Retelling. She is also an active co-author or ghostwriter of several nonfiction books on personal and business development. Laura currently lives in Windermere, Florida with her husband and daughter and works with clients all over the world. Visit her online at lauraschaeferwriter.com and linkedin.com.