When loved ones pass away, there are lots of considerations, including what happens to their Social Security. The decedent’s payments need to be stopped, but survivor’s benefits may be available to the spouse or, in certain cases, children.
Social Security benefits stop at death. If a loved one who was receiving Social Security dies, you need to notify the Social Security Administration as soon as possible. Often the funeral home does this as one of its services, but if not, you can notify Social Security by calling 1-800-772-1213 or contacting your local Social Security office. Benefits are not paid for the month the recipient dies and are not prorated. So, even if the recipient dies in the middle or end of the month, Social Security will not pay any benefits for that month. If the Social Security Administration is not notified on time and makes a payment, that payment will have to be returned.
Death Benefit Regardless of age or eligibility for survivor’s benefits, surviving spouses are entitled to a one-time lump-sum payment of $255 if they were living with the decedent or collecting benefits on the decedent’s record. If there is no surviving spouse, the payment can be made to a child who qualifies for benefits on the decedent’s record.
Survivor’s Benefits In addition to the lump-sum death benefit, certain family members may be eligible to receive monthly survivor’s benefits, including the following:
A widow or widower age 60 or older (age 50 or older if they have a disability).
A surviving divorced spouse, under certain circumstances.
A widow or widower at any age who is caring for the deceased’s child who is under age 16 or has a disability and is receiving child’s benefits.
An unmarried child of the deceased who is younger than age 18 (or up to age 19 if they are a full-time student in an elementary or secondary school) or age 18 or older with a disability that began before age 22.
Parents, age 62 or older, who were dependent on the deceased for at least half of their support.
If the spouse has reached full retirement age when the decedent died, then the spouse begins receiving the decedent’s actual benefits. This is true even if the decedent and spouse were divorced, so long as they had been married for at least 10 years.
While a spouse can claim survivor's benefits as early as age 60, the benefits will be permanently reduced. If the surviving spouse claims benefits between age 60 and full retirement age, he or she receives a reduced percentage of the decedent’s benefits. At age 60, the spouse will receive 71.5 percent of the actual benefits. If the spouse waits to collect, this percentage increases each year until the spouse reaches full retirement age, at which point he or she can receive 100 percent of the actual benefits. A surviving spouse who is age 50 to 59 also receives 71.5 percent of the actual benefits. Spouses caring for a child and the decedent’s dependents receive 75 percent of the decedent’s actual benefit. Dependent parents receive 75 percent each or 82.5 percent if there is only one parent.
If a surviving spouse, including a divorced spouse, remarries before turning age 60, then the spouse is no longer eligible for benefits unless the new marriage ends. Spouses who remarry after age 60 are still eligible for survivor’s benefits.
For more information about Social Security survivor’s benefits, click here.
Raising the minimum wage by as little as 10 percent would significantly improve the safety and health of nursing home residents, according to new research.
Most direct care in nursing homes is provided by nursing assistants, who make up about 40 percent of the nursing home workforce and are among the lowest-paid workers in the U.S. economy. Nursing assistants help residents with activities of daily living like eating, bathing and dressing, and and work with certified nurses and elder care teams to monitor patients’ conditions.
Due in part of their low wages, nursing assistants frequently change jobs for better pay or working conditions. “Between 60 percent and 85 percent of nursing assistants leave their employers each year, most often to go work in other nursing homes,” writes Krista Ruffini, a visiting scholar at the Minneapolis Federal Reserve. Nursing homes frequently report difficulty in recruiting and retaining staff, she says.
Ruffini recently looked at the impact increasing the minimum wage has on nursing home staff turnover and quality. She compared facilities in hundreds of U.S. counties that had increased their minimum wage with those that hadn’t between 1990 to 2017.
In findings based on her preliminary data published in a working paper, Ruffini found that “increasing the minimum wage by 10 percent would reduce the number of health inspection violations by 1 percent to 2 percent, the number of residents with moderate to severe pressure ulcers [bed sores] by about 1.7 percent, and the number of deaths by 3 percent.” The 3 percent reduction in deaths, she notes, translates to 15,000 fewer deaths in nursing homes each year.
Ruffini found that raising the minimum wage reduced turnover and increased tenure among nursing assistants. This greater continuity of care, she says, translated into improved health and safety conditions for the patients. At the same time, nursing home profits held steady because the extra costs were passed on in the form of higher fees.
Ruffini notes that her findings have particular relevance in a time when the coronavirus pandemic is overwhelming nursing homes. Comparing a facility’s number of COVID-19 deaths with its quality-of-care performance, she concluded: “The data provide some suggestive evidence that higher service quality is associated with fewer deaths from COVID-19 in nursing homes.”
“Everyone needs a will, but, increasingly, estate planners say people also could benefit from setting up a trust while they are alive. That step would help assure that their assets are distributed more quickly, their bills paid promptly and continuously and personal information about property and other assets are kept out of the public eye.”
You might think of a trust as something for wealthy people who want to dispose of high-end assets, like art work, collectible cars or businesses. However, just like everyone needs an estate plan regardless of their asset level, says The New York Times in the article, “Life After Death? Here’s Why You Should Have a Trust,” many people who are not wealthy could benefit from having a trust.
There are many different kinds of trusts which serve different purposes. One is a revocable trust, which the owner can change. They are considered by many to be the “work horse” of modern estate planning. A revocable trust can avoid the need for a public probate court proceeding after the person dies, saving time and keeping money from being immediately available to heirs and executors alike.
Trusts are also useful for times when people become incapacitated and need someone else to take care of their finances. Because many more people are living longer and the number of people with dementia is increasing, there are more situations where trusts are useful to the family and caregivers.
A will is different than a trust and is a public document. The probate process requires a disclosure of assets, bank and other financial accounts and the names of beneficiaries. That information remains private with a revocable trust.
Other considerations regarding trusts:
You should have any type of trust set up by an estate and trust attorney.
A house, real property, bank or investment accounts can be placed into a trust.
A revocable trust does not always end at the death of the original owner. How long it may last depends upon the laws of your state.
People also use trusts to protect their assets from others or to assure the long-term care of someone who is disabled.
You can have a professional manager, family member or friend as a trustee or co-trustee of a trust. Sometimes having a licensed professional who has federal reporting requirements can provide an extra layer of protection.
Speak with an estate planning attorney who can discuss the different types of trusts that are available and determine which one is best for your particular situation.